Nov 19, 2017 Last Updated 9:11 AM, Nov 15, 2017

Greener days are coming

1184 certified organic farmers

THE historic launching of Organic Pasifika at Laminu Stadium on Tanna Island last month (September 20) certified 1184 organic farmers from Tanna alone. It is a signal that greener days are coming to the Pacific. Vanuatu’s National Task Force coordinating the first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) in Port Vila from October 10 – 20, is racing against time, with confidence to pull off the first-ever regional event with a category of success.

The Vanuatu Government has launched the Agri Tourism Policy to bridge the gap between farm and restaurant. The bridge is working wonders in the Caribbean Islands, the birth place of PWA. Meanwhile Breakas Beach Resort on the southern outskirts of Port Vila is piloting organic dishes on its menu in line with the wishes of its health conscious customers.

The initiative is aimed at certifying the resort as an organic resort and to encourage other resorts to follow suit. At the end of the day it is a win-win situation for the organic farmer, organic resort and healthy people.

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The road to PWA 2017

OVERSEAS travel by government officials can be quite controversial at times and often comes under the microscope in the Pacific. More often than not, criticisms are not way off the mark. Not for Vanuatu’s former Minister of Agriculture David Tosul and his then Director-General Mr. Howard Aru; current Coordinator of PWA 2017.

The year was 2014, October 6 to 12 when they represented Vanuatu at the 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture for the first time in Paramaribo, Surinam. That was when the idea of a Pacific Week of Agriculture was hatched. “We were at this luncheon.

The Minister leaned over to me and said, ‘DG what do you think if I propose that Vanuatu host something like this?’ “I said, I think that’s a great idea,” Mr Aru responded. The minister stood up during the course of the luncheon and publicly announced Vanuatu’s interest in hosting something similar to CWA. Partners picked up the declaration almost immediately and that was the birth of PWA. As they say, the rest is history.

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Fiji’s sole but struggling rice producer, Rewa Rice Limited has welcomed the entry of Grace Roads Limited, a South Korean investor built on Christians’ apocalyptic principles, into the local rice industry.

A miller for rice paddy, Rewa Rice Limited is a government-owned company that buys paddy from farmers all over Fiji. Their mill is located in Dreketi, in Fiji’s northern island of Vanua Levu. Company Manager, Ashrit Pratap says Grace Road farms will supplement rice production in Fiji as Rewa Rice alone does not have the capacity to satisfy local demands. “The government aims to reduce rice imports and be fully self-sufficient by year 2020,” said Pratap.

“Therefore we do not see Grace Road as a competition but we see them as a partner to achieve our aims to reduce imports and promote local rice.” Grace Roads Group is a Korean Christian group that made landfall in Fiji in 2014 with the aim of introducing and developing organic farming in the country, and have built their own rice mill. President Daniel Kim says Fiji was a good place for investment, and a greater place for their mission – 

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Botanist pollinates 8000 hybrid varieties

AN indian botanist left Vanuatu at the end of June a proud scientist after a successful pollination and breeding programme on yams. Dr Kuttolarnadathil Abraham, 60, pollinated 8000 hybrids of Vanuatu yam within the one month he spent in the country. Dr K. Abraham - as he is known because of the difficulty locals face pronuncing his first name, expected half of them to survive and be ready for harvest by October this year. The Indian yam expert was sent to Vanuatu by the World Bank to assist improve the country’s yam varieties and especially to develop climate change resistant varieties. Doctor Abraham said Vanuatu has rich soil and has tremendous natural resources but these are largely unexploited and unused. He said he has spent more than three decades on yam breeding in India but Vanuatu has more varieties than his country. “It is important to get resilient varieties against climate change.

“With heavy rain fall and drought, Vanuatu could easily lose its current yam varieties so it is way better for the country to prepare against this possibility.” Dr Abraham said yam was a major crop in Vanuatu and other Pacific island countries. His research showed that the country had a rich genetic resource of yams, which could be useful for breeding.

Yam breeding in Vanuatu and in the Pacific has not been very popular, the visiting botanist said, but people have to work more on their land and produce more root crops such as yams. Dr Abraham first visited Vanuatu in 2004. He said yam breeding is necessary as an important measure against climate change, and also because of the rapid increase in the country’s population.

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Tongan vanilla to bounce back

Top brands to drum up production

Tonga’s vanilla industry is looking promising again as local growers and exporters clinch new deals likely to lift output over the next year. This comes as the island kingdom enters a very difficult phase economically and any progress in local industries is an important contribution to its recovery. “The vanilla industry used to be very strong many years ago but over time it has decreased with the fluctuating international process,” Ian Jones, director of Vava’u-based virgin coconut oil exporter Taste of Tonga told Islands Business.

Vava’u’s warm tropical climate and generally fertile soil makes it an ideal location for vanilla cultivation and it is Tonga’s vanilla growing center. But Tonga’s vanilla heydays are gone. “Only 105 of the plantations are currently producing vanilla beans. Most are neglected,” said Jones. He plays a key role in a new partnership between local vanilla growers and Queen Fine Foods, an Australian-based family-owned business specialising in the development of vanilla products and their distribution in Australia and New Zealand. Queen’s investment, significant by Tonga’s vanilla industry scale, will see the development of the Queen Vanilla Curing Certification Course (QVCCC) to help grower members of the scheme develop sustainable farming practices.

It will also provide farmers with the critical curing facilities and farmers’ education in vanilla curing. Jones, a director of Vava’u-based Taste of Tonga and principally a virgin coconut oil exporter, will help this vanilla project as Queen’s man on the ground in Vava’u to roll out its vanilla revival plans. His business acumen, management and leadership skills and good relationship with farmers in Vava’u will see him administering the quality and training programmes.

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