Local produce, local menus

When 116 farmers in Fiji’s western division received ‘Cash for Cultivation’ from the government, Agriculture Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy told them: “We want the demand for vegetables, fresh produce, or root crops that comes from the local sector, whether it is from the tourism or the service industry, it should be fulfilled by us.”

The Pacific Islands Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON)—which has members in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste— has suggested resort chefs and procurement officers could be using this time (of border closures) to visit farmers and talk about what they need to in order to use more local produce in their restaurants. “There is an opportunity for farmers and hotels to enter into contract farming agreements that will encourage farmers to plant longer-term crops, including fruit and nut trees, now in readiness for when tourism begins to recover,” PIFON says.

More than half of the fresh produce served in hotels and resorts in Fiji’s main tourism areas in 2017 was imported, representing an import bill of more than F$38.5 million (US$18.8 million) reports the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Some of this produce was crops that grow well, and year-round in Fiji.  Tropical fruit juice alone accounted for F$1,566,750  of the import bill.

Hotel purchasing managers, chefs and general managers told the IFC researchers that seasonality and inconsistent supply of local produce were the most common reasons they did not buy local fruit and vegetables. Quality was also an issue.

That has been the experience of Yemi Lee, the  Area Director of Finance & Business Support South Pacific at the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa.

“Farmers here, they don’t really have enough production,” he says.

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