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Media Center > Speeches > MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AT THE COCOA DAY CELEBRATIONS

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AT THE COCOA DAY CELEBRATIONS

5/22/2019
Representatives of Line Ministries from Commissioner Central’s Office, Staff from the Ministry iTaukei Affairs
Stakeholders from the Private Sector,
Cocoa Farmers,
Staff of the Ministry of Agriculture
Ladies and Gentleman

Bula Vinaka, and a very good morning to you ALL. I must thank you sincerely for your presence here this morning which indicates the importance of this commodity – COCOA [Theobroma cacao] to our Agriculture Development plans, its ability to generate income and employment for our farmers and its contribution to Fiji’s National Economy through foreign exchange.

From the outset, allow me to journey with you down memory lane, on the establishment of the Cocoa Industry in Fiji. Cocoa farming was first implemented through collaboration between The Fiji Government and its International Stakeholders such as World Bank.

Fiji’s Cocoa industry was initiated in 1960, as part of Fiji Government’s effort to introduce cocoa farming to small holders in coconut growing areas of the Northern Division. The same initiative was later introduced in the Central and Western Division for landowners who have available land but are uncultivated.

The Fiji Cocoa Nucleus project followed thereafter and had targeted massive uncultivated Mataqali or Yavusa [Clan] land converting it to cocoa farms. This project ensure assistance to landowners through the establishment of farm roads that allows for easy access from their villages and settlement to their farms, employments, farm housing and vehicles.

Grants were provided for both initiatives – Cocoa for smallholders & Cocoa Nucleus Project. The result of these two initiatives paved the way for exportation of cocoa beans from Fiji in the 1970’s. Due to changes in Government fiscal Policies, funding for Cocoa was reduced significantly and the first effect noted, was the abandonment of the nucleus projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen, In 1987 Fiji recorded a one-time high production volume of 486 tonnes cocoa beans that were supplied by both individual farmers and existing nucleus projects. During this period the favorable world market price also contributed to the increased production.

After 1987, production of cocoa beans fluctuated due to numerous factors such as low farm gate price, monopolized export market, limited local market opportunities, attractive market outlets for other crops local and abroad and the devastating effect of Natural disasters.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Today’s Cocoa Day Theme – ‘Pause, and Reflect on Fiji’s Cocoa Industry – Bright as Ever.’ Aims to highlight what we had experienced in the past in terms of infrastructural and financial benefits for our families and communities and what the future holds for the Cocoa Industry.

As we anticipate the brighter future of this Industry, The Ministry of Agriculture will continue to render full support and promotion in the rehabilitation of existing plantations as well as the establishment of new farms in the Central, Northern and Western Divisions.

Very briefly the Ministry had approved a total budget of $2.76m since 2014 for Cocoa revitalization program, of which approximately 60% ($1.7m) were utilized and produced around 54.15 tons. Activities for these budget includes , farm access road maintenance, purchase of farm tools and machines, agro inputs, fermentation and drying sheds , staff and farmers training , market development and operating costs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Cocoa is a global product. As long as there are GLOBAL CONSUMERS this Industry is self-secured. The global demand for cocoa has been on the rise since the past couple of decades due to the continuous awareness about associated health benefit of cocoa. Global Nutraceuticals and Functional Food Industries are the two main industries that drive the demand for cocoa beans to produce chocolate bars, snack bars, protein shakes, cocoa liquor, cocoa paste to name a few.

In Fiji, There are seven Cocoa BUYERS currently in operation today. They are Koko Siga, Spices Fiji, Cacao Fiji, Sai Yee Foods, Bolea Chocolate, Mai NATURAL and Fijiana Cacao. These Cocoa Buyers connect Fiji to the Global market and at the same time promoting our Fiji Made Brand in the Cocoa Industry. Recently, Cacao Fiji, won two awards at the 2018 Americas competition at New York metropolitan Region for their dark milk chocolate bars which contained over 50% of Fijian cocoa beans. Winning such prestigious awards at international competition indicated the high quality standards of cocoa beans that we can produce locally.

Fiji’s export of cocoa beans to Australia, France, New Zealand and United States increase from 5.4 metric tons in 2016 to 9.5 mt in 2017. The value of these exports increased from $26,000 in 2016 to $85,000 in 2017. Fiji can continue to improve further on this positive trend with the consistent support from Government and Private Stakeholders.

Ladies and Gentlemen, In order to achieve the BEST from your cocoa beans, QUALITY OF Beans must be maintained at all times. For example, fermentation which is a process familiar to existing farmers however, farmers do not always adhere to the recommended duration of fermentation. Regular trainings continued to be carried out with farm visitations by both the buyers and the Agriculture Officers in order to maintain field sanitation, reduce your losses while improving the quality of your cocoa beans. Cocoa Buyers have assured the Ministry of the availability of markets with the expected quota of approximately 36.4mt dry beans and 200 mt wet beans.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to conclude, I want to remind us again, that all Cocoa farmers should ensure that you are aligned to these buyers to guarantee purchase. Continuous market coordination between cocoa farmers, the buyers and the Ministry of Agriculture is a key component in ensuring satisfaction and attractive return to your investment.

It now gives me great pleasure to officially open this year’s [2019] Cocoa Day celebration. Enjoy and may GOD bless Fiji’s cocoa industry.

Thank you, Vinaka Vakalevu and Dhanyavard.
 
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