The General Manager of British American Tobacco Fiji, Mr Samuel Dormor,
Management and Staff of British American Tobacco Fiji,
Partner Farmers,
Members of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula Vinaka and very good morning to you all.

It is a pleasure to be here with you all for the second Annual Star Farmer Incentive Awards to recognise over 100 hardworking farmers gathered here today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Congratulations BAT Fiji, for continuing to support and recognise the hard work of these farmers for three consecutive years!

Despite the impact of COVID-19 and natural disasters, the agriculture sector is still cushioning our economy – quite evidently indicated by our figures for agriculture export in 2021, which increased by 43.7 percent compared to 2019 by $284.9 million.

These figures show us how you as farmers are contributing to the growth of the nation. And as your Government, we want you to continue this good work in partnership with us.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have heard from the General Manager, Mr Sam Domor that the farming equipment to be awarded to BAT star farmers is worth more than $70,000. You, as cultivators of our land, have shown extraordinary determination to learn and go far beyond simply growing tobacco. So this is an investment in you!

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am proud to hear that 500 farmers – and not just men – but our women farmers too are being awarded. It would be remiss, if I do not mention the important role women continue to play in contributing to agriculture and rural livelihood.

I acknowledged BAT Fiji for supporting our farmers for sixty-eight years. That’s more than six decades of support to the agriculture industry and support to farmers to cultivate tobacco and other agricultural produce outside of the growing season.

It is good to know that farmers also received training on adopting agronomy best practices that provide a huge impact on yields. This, coupled with subsidies provided for land preparation and reduced cost of fertilizer and crop treatment chemicals, gives farmers great opportunities. You can also benefit from a guaranteed market and fixed price for your harvest, which gives security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Ministry of Trade, Co-operatives, Small and Medium Enterprises, provides a range of initiatives for micro and small businesses. One of which I would like to highlight is the Trade Enhancement Programme (TEP), which is a special programme with grant funding of up to $500, aimed at supporting new and existing businesses who possess innovative and unique business perspectives.

Since the launch of the Programme, the Ministry has received over 1900 applications and close to half a million has been invested into their micro business. It is important to note that 69% of our recipients are women. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Fiji Government’s support does not stop with just encouragement for this kind of initiative but we also provide training, mentoring, hand-holding and most importantly funding – so I wish to convey my sincere gratitude and appreciation to BAT Fiji for providing support to all the farmers.

Additionally, Ladies and Gentlemen, apart from the holistic, sustainable business approach to agriculture model, there are other forms of models you can consider. One such form is the establishment of Co-operatives. The foundation on which co-operatives are built, includes self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.

Co-operative business model was rooted from the word “solesolevaki” where the business idea is very close to our communal living and our way of life. People with similar ideas can pool resources together and start a business through the co-operative model.

A perfect example of a successful agricultural co-operative is Nabaka Land Purchase Co-operative Limited in Nadroga-Navosa. In order to further their business, Nabaka Cooperative members were supported with 23 rotavator machines and 22 water pumps through the Integrated Human Resource Development Programme (IHRDP). They have been able to use the rotavator and water pumps on their farms that has greatly assisted them during the planting season. The Co-operative now has $31,000 in their bank account.

This demonstrates that with the proper and strategic support system you can trigger potential investment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Coming back to today’s event, the support provided by BAT Fiji has enabled numerous farmers present today to earn $1,000 per hectare, on average, in the last season.

This itself is a success worthy of mentioning.

I hope today sets the foundation for a stronger partnership – please do note that the team at the Ministry is within reach to help you at any time.
With these words, I would like to thank the BAT Fiji once again and whole heartedly congratulate the farmers for their achievement.
Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank you.