FIJI’S PRESIDENT SAYS THE COUNTRY SHOULD EXPAND AGRICULTURE

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 26, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Fiji's President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara says the country should vigorously pursue developments in the agricultural sector in an effort to better utilize the country’s abundant farmland for economic growth.

In particular, the President recommends that existing farming of root crops, fruits and vegetables be developed further because of their demand overseas.

Ratu Sir Kamisese made the comments at the start of a week-long official visit to the Western Division on the main island of Viti Levu.

He said concern had been raised in the past about the weakening of the sugar industry, but also noted that development of substitute commodities had been slow.

"We could be growing fruits like watermelon, mangoes, and oranges, which are in demand in Asian countries,'' he said. "We could also establish horticultural industries to . . . export flowers. Intensive research should also be carried out to improve these industries."

According to Ratu Sir Kamisese, the banana industry could be revived now that a cure had been found for the banana leaf disease which crippled the industry in the 1960s.

The President also raised concern about the lack of agriculture-related subjects being taught in schools.

"Schools should teach agricultural science subjects so that young people could learn to use the land," he said.

Ratu Sir Kamisese said expertise in water desalination was also worth considering, adding that countries in the Caribbean are surviving on desalinated water, and this could be a valuable development in Fiji.

This is the President’s first official tour of the Western Division in three years.

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