FOOD IMPORTS "CRAZY," VANUATU EXPERT SAYS

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (August 25, 2001 - Port Vila Presse/PINA Nius Online)---A Vanuatu agriculture expert says it is "crazy" that the country is still paying billions of vatu for food imports. (NOTE: Vatu 1 = U.S. $ 0.007082 on August 26, 2001)

Vincent Lebot, a member of the Aelan Kakae (Local Food) committee which organized the recent Agriculture and Trade Fair, made the comments as the government promotes 2001 as Yia Blong Aelan Kakae (Year of Local Food).

Lebot, an agronomist attached to the Department of Agriculture, said many people in the islands sell their copra and then go to the next trade store to buy rice. This, Lebot said, is plain starch with no nutritional value.

Why waste money when taro and yams and other root crops have all the minerals the body needs?, he asked.

Lebot pointed out that Vanuatu imports 100,000 tons of rice a year costing hundreds of millions of vatu. This money could be saved to spend on something more beneficial to the people.

He stressed: "Agriculture is the only industry that can feed and support the population. In 70 years time there will be one million people in Vanuatu. The government cannot employ all these people, only the land and farming can provide the support.

"Many people think farming is a 'bushman's' job. It's not. Farming is a smart business, full of science."

The diehard supporter of Ni-Vanuatu leaning towards locally-made and local crops said Vanuatu is full of rich farmable lands.

He urged young people living in the towns and who have no jobs to return to their islands and start learning to become farmers with a mission – being "smart businessmen."

For additional reports from the Port Vila Presse, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Port Vila (Vanuatu) Presse.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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