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Pacific Farmers Have Their Say: Boost Food Security, Support Cottage Industries

June 2020

Sant Kumar Calls On Authorities For More Value-Adding Initiatives

Fresh fruits and fruit juice at the Nadi Market

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening food security and nutrition.

Without large-scale coordinated action, Sant Kumar says the disruption to food systems may pose serious health and nutrition implications.

“There needs to be a national coordination unit or implementing agency, made up of individuals from both the public and private sectors of the community” said the founder and director of Bula Agro.

“They then determine the needs of the people and supply the necessary inputs to ensure food security and livelihoods are maintained so that resources are used more efficiently and effectively.”

“If you look at how we lived 30 or more years ago, very little was spent outside of the home. Perhaps on soap, salt and oil but everything else was from the land if you had land – peanuts for oil, vegetables, eggs, meat and milk.”

“The pandemic is a blessing in disguise, everyone needs to look at what they used to do, where they are now, and how they need to adapt moving forward. We all need to be self-sufficient.”

Sant Kumar says current impacts of the global pandemic has seen a rise in demand for seedlings.

“Consumers are coming directly to my farm to purchase seedlings, there has been huge demand for it. While we’re seeing a growth in backyard gardens, the challenge will be the logistics in distributing these seedlings.”

“The concern around other challenges presented by COVID 19 is serious; those without an income will steal crops and livestock, should a drought occur in the upcoming months – it will affect commercial farmers who have already lost income to COVID 19, as they’re unable to afford irrigation systems.”

“We also saw with TC Harold what it can do to our existing food security, it wiped out all replanting efforts to combat the pandemic.”

Sant Kumar says access to fresh produce is crucial and is calling on authorities for more value-adding initiatives to prolong the shelf life of local produce.

“Government must continue to supply seedlings and encourage value adding by providing assistance with the implementation of food security systems such as storage facilities and preservation facilities.”

“Bula Agro is mass producing seedlings but with the shortage of planting trays we are now looking at other economical means of planting by using materials that can be found around the house.”

“The focus needs to return to livelihoods and food security, and we must support that in any way we can through grants or loans, it’s also important cottage industries receive the support they require at this time.”

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