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Distinguished Guests
Stakeholders of the Ministry of Agriculture
Ladies and Gentlemen

Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaste and a very good morning to you all.

I am very happy to be here with you this morning, at our Sigatoka Research Station in Nacocolevu to officially launch yet another milestone achievement in our bid to modernise Fiji’s Agriculture Sector through Biotechnology.

I must first, acknowledge the invitation and the warm reception and of course my sincere gratitude to Management and Staff of Animal Health and Production Division of the Ministry of Agriculture for taking up this initiative which I believe is the first of its kind in Fiji to ensure that we improve Fiji’s Beef and Dairy Industry.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Beef and Dairy Industry exists in Fiji over a century ago, with the main purpose of providing only for food security. This two industries has slowly evolved over the years from a few cows at subsistence level to a more commercially oriented industry with major players such as farmers, processors, retailers, importers and consumers.

However the overall performances of our Beef and Dairy industry over the years have been stagnant which is due mainly to the traditional breeds of animals, diseases like Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis, knowledge and capacity to manage livestock diseases, the sectors vulnerability to natural disasters, economic and political shocks, farming scale, poor quality and unpredictable production.

For a long time now, Fiji is still a net importer of beef and dairy products from Australia and New Zealand to supplement our taste and preference for these commodities. For this reason retail prices are closely linked to import prices.

Ladies and Gentlemen, since 2006, the current Government has noted with much interest Fiji’s high import bill in beef and dairy products and began putting in place initiatives to reform the industry with the aim of reducing imports by increasing local production.

These reforms includes; the sale of Rewa Cooperative Dairy Company Limited and the formation Fiji Cooperative Dairy Company Limited (FCDCL), the importation of cattle from New Zealand to rehabilitate the beef and dairy sectors to improve production, the engagement of consultants to develop strategies that will improve the overall livestock sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, the FIJI 2020 Agriculture Sector Policy Agenda aims at modernising Fiji’s Agriculture Sector. It highlighted the introduction of modern farming technology, equipment and inputs, mechanisation, biotechnology, innovation and better farming practices which will increase productivity, profitability and food security for our increasing population.

Therefore, in identifying the lack of performances in Fiji’s Dairy and Beef industry due to poor genetics, the Ministry have opted for Embryo Transfer which is a safer method of improving farmer’s herds rather than the normal practice of importation of cattle.

As earlier highlighted, in the past, dairy breed [Holstein Fresian] were imported from New Zealand, which was generally for rehabilitating the Dairy Industry. The Ministry’s continued effort to improve our existing breeds led to a number of consultations with Farmers and Stakeholders to ensure that we identify the preferred breeds for our national herds that can adapt to climate change, resist disease and maintain high productivity in harsh conditions. Thus the identification of such breeds “Senepol” for beef and Brown Swiss” for dairy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Ministry recognises this Bio technology Program – Embryo Transfer as the solution to introducing new blood lines into the farmers herd to reduce in-breeding, and improve performances and productivity. The process of including new breeds into the Cattle industry in Fiji have been long overdue thus the poor performances of these animals in terms of genetics.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been advised, that Phase 1 of this Embryo Transfer program has already been implemented where new genetics in the form of embryo was imported from Australia. On that note, I would like to acknowledge cooperation from Biosecurity FIJI and the Australian Reproductive Technology in assisting the Ministry on ensuring the successful execution of Phase 1 of this initiative. Out of the 78 recipient transplanted with embryo, 40 were confirmed pregnant. This is about 50 percent success rate which is acceptable for tropical countries like Fiji. In September this year, 37 calves were born.

For Phase 2, the success rate was 52 percent, where 90 embryos were transferred and 47 recipients are confirmed pregnant. At this rate, we look forward to a more favourable outcome in the next few months. I also learned that this is the first time we are using the electronic herd recording or RFID Tags.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that this the new era not only for Beef and Dairy but for Fiji’s livestock industry. That is why we are gathered here today to celebrate this success, raise awareness, share information on the changing landscape for livestock and identify further opportunities available for Fiji’s cattle industry.

The Ministry is now initiating Phase 3 where we have identified two other beef breed, Drought Master and Wagyu. This genetics will be distributed to local farmers and the Ministry will also be conducting extensive training for both staff and farmers to ensure successful implementation and the sustainability of the program.

Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, it’s great to be here with you today and without further ado, I now launch this Embryo Transfer Program and acknowledge its success.

Thank you very much, Dhanyavad & Vinaka Vakalevu and I Wish to extend a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

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