IMPORTED RICE UNDERMINES FIJI GROWERS

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Prices dropped on local rice

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, August 26, 2009) – Fiji’s biggest rice company, Rewa Rice, has lost about F$100,000 [US$50, 000] in sales since January this year as a result of increased local consumption.

Company general manager Keshwan Prasad said sales have dropped because of high local consumption and there was a need to control rice imports.

Last year Fiji imported about 32,000 tonnes of rice worth $20million [US$10 million] while local production was around 18,000 tonnes -- valued at $1.1million.

The situation has caused the company to call for some control on imported rice to save the local industry. Mr. Prasad said the regime had done its part in helping revitalise local rice farming projects.

In a bid to combat the fall in sales, Mr. Prasad said awareness programs have been conducted in communities to educate locals on the nutritious value of local rice.

"The local rice we produce is more nutritious then the white rice imported but locals consume more imported rice.

"So, to increase sales, we are doing awareness on the nutritious value of local rice and reduced the wholesale price from $1.85 per kilogram to $1.60 per kg and we hope to see a difference in sales," Prasad said.

It is understood that brown rice has more nutrients then white rice.

Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Josefa Uluilakeba said they would comment on the issue today.

Another major issue Rewa Rice faces is the fact that farmers don't supply all their rice stock to the company but to other markets they identify.

"Last year a total of 18,000 tonnes of rice was produced by Rewa Rice company only received 450 tonnes so it will be interesting to know where the remaining tonnes of rice has gone?

"If farmers sell all their produce to the company, then that will help our production increase, " Prasad said.

But he said there was a good future for the local rice industry if support and control of rice imports were closely monitored.

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