Rice farmers of Benai Settlement on the outskirts of Koronubu in Ba yesterday received a hand-held tractor from the Ministry of Agriculture to assist them during land preparations.

While officially handing over the assistance, which was donated by the Government of Indonesia, Minister for Agriculture Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy said it was the Fijian Government’s responsibility to provide the necessary equipment and infrastructure to foster development.

“We will provide the basic amenities and infrastructure which are categorized as public goods and services, which in the case for agriculture consists of farm roads, drainage and machinery which is for the collective use and benefit of farming communities, not for individual use but rather to be used by the whole community.

“We do not provide machinery for an individual, which is counter-intuitive to our goal to develop farming on a communal level, but what we will provide however is machinery in the public interest for public use, like this hand-held tractor which will be for public use,” he said.

“You must take ownership of this equipment and ensure that it is in good working conditions to last in your farming cluster, guaranteeing that it is still usable right up until its use by date,” Minister Reddy said.

Hon. Reddy again reiterated Government’s stance on commercial agriculture as the most viable option to advance the growth of the local agriculture sector.

“Through such assistance, we want you to raise the profile of agriculture in the country to the level at which we believe it can reach as there is massive untapped potential in the agriculture sector,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of Benai rice farmers, Rajeshwar Singh thanked the Ministry of Agriculture for the continued support rendered by the Government in uplifting the standard of farming in the area.

“We’re very appreciative of the efforts put in by the Ministry of Agriculture to support the growth of our short-term crops in the area, the Ministry is doing a lot of work to improve the sector and we believe the assistance handed over here today will surely benefit the 22 farmers within the area of Benai,” said Mr. Singh.

Meanwhile, farmers of Benai were also given coconut seedlings of the Fiji Tall variety to assist in food security.