We have launched our KANDA (KUESTION AND ANSA) column this week on www.yumitoktokstret.today, based on the various discussions on Yumi Toktok Stret Facebook groups.
KANDA this week looks at “Onion, Potato and Carrot” an online question asked by Moses Yanz to the Vanuatu Minister of Agriculture, MP of Luganville, Matai Seremiah if local produce can be substituted for imported products.
Moses Yanz: Minister Seremiah, is it possible for the Vanuatu Government to stop the imports of some agricultural produce and provide local farmers an opportunity to produce and supply?
Minister Seremiah: Yes it is possible and we are currently working on this already with local farmers to provide import substitution especially with Potato, Onion and Carrot. We will be addressing the importance of consistency in supplying these produce also because we do not want shortages as it can affect the market and also affect businesses. We want to provide import substitution but before that we need to prepare to mass produce to maintain consistency with supplying the selected produce.
Moses Yanz: We do have other crops such as Taro and Yams. Can the Vanuatu Government support famers to finding markets for famers to export to? Maybe our neighboring countries?
Minister Seremiah: Agriculture has identified 25 different crops and fruits that we can export. Now other countries that we are interested in exporting to do have quality control standards that we need to know about and the Ministry of Agriculture has acted on this already and we have been to New Zealand two weeks ago to discuss the quality control issue.
Moses Yanz: Can the abattoir add or create more products out from cattle for suppliers outside of Vanuatu just to ensure there is strong demand for export which will also increase the cattle production locally as well?
Minister Seremiah: I am not really sure on this but I do know the cost of utilities has been very high for the past years but we are through collaborating with the Utilities Regulatory Authority (URA) to address this but the abattoir will also look at their proportionate saving in costs which at times is determined by the increased level of production.
Moses Yanz: Can the Vanuatu Government look to link farmers directly to outside markets directly as we witness high production and high imports for some but the monetary outlook is not at all promising and at times is not beneficial to the farmer, how do we explain this?
Minister Seremiah: With commodity products such as timber, we are not in control of the prices; also Copra and Cocoa, we are the price takers and the commodity markets do determine the prices we deal with, however with kava it is different, the demand and supply determine the price. Keep in mind that only a few of us plant kava so the prices are determined by the farmers which means we are in control of the prices for some commodities whilst for others we do not have control at all.
Moses Yanz: If the Government is really serious and looking to grow the economy, it is also responsible for educating farmers on quality. We know the potential to mass produce especially with the mass land available and do know we can meet the demand. The setback would be the educational part and would the Government look to provide educational support through training to farmers in all 83 islands?
Minister Seremiah: At a glance and from a spoken perspective It seems very easy but it’s not. Trying to cover 83 islands is a challenge and we have to think about the logistics and the many climate challenges which we will face just to get to the many islands. Please do bear in mind that it is possible but a lot of work is needed yet and resources is required as well as having a proper coordination plan. The Ministry has conducted a review of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) extension service’s and we will make a decision soon and I hope the government will agree to reinstate this important service but you know very well that means more budget. I have on my part requested for more resources for Agriculture but we were not given approval as there are other important services too that require attention.
Moses Yanz: Thank you minister for the responses and we know that Agriculture is the backbone of the Vanuatu economy and there are issues but we glad that the Vanuatu Government is taking all this into consideration.
We will add more to this article and it will end by end of this week.