FIJI TO START POTATO FARMING

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Seeds arrive next month from New Zealand

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 3, 2010) - In its bid to start potato production in Fiji the State has allocated FJ$75,000 [US$38,700] worth of potato seeds which are expected to arrive in the country from New Zealand next month.

The cultivation of potato in the Western division is expected to start next month.

Ministry of Primary Industries head, Joketani Cokanasiga told the farmers in Nadarivatu that they had a big task at hand.

Mr. Cokanasiga said the nation looked up to them to provide local potatoes for consumption and to at least lessen the import bill of FJ$19million [US$9.8 million] on potatoes alone. Acting Senior Agriculture Officer (Ba), Viliame Mainawalala said there was a Potato Working Group that had been set up to organize and work with farmers in the selected potato growing areas.

"The officials that have been working on the programme are from the Extension, Research and Bio-Security Divisions of the Agriculture Department and they are ensuring the smooth process of the various planting programmes for the areas that will be cultivating potato," said Mr. Mainawalala.

He said the total planting target for the West was 80.5 hectares and the Ba Province alone consisted of 85 farmers who would cultivate 33 hectares and aimed to produce 100 tonnes of potatoes.

"The tractor that was handed over today will assist in land preparation as it is paramount to prepare the soil well to ensure a good crop," he said.

He said the tractor would also be used for the cultivation of vegetables but first priority would be given for the cultivation of potatoes.

The Red Rascal variety which has been recommended by the agricultural experts is expected to be harvested after three months of planting.

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