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Agriculture activity drops

In the past decade from 2001-2011, the agriculture sector had an average contribution equivalent to 10.6 per cent of Fiji’s total GDP.

This, according to the Fiji 2020 Agriculture Sector Policy Agenda report, meant the sector had actively employed about two-thirds of the labor force.

In the 1990s, the contribution of agriculture was about 16 per cent of GDP. However, the decline in the performance of the sugar industry, the inability to cope with trade liberalization, the occurrence of natural disasters and pest and disease outbreaks, export trade restrictions, political instability, and inconsistent public sector support had contributed to the decline in the growth of the sector. In 2012, the agenda report said, the sector contributed only 9.2 per cent of GDP.

“As the agriculture sector and other natural resources sectors contracted in their share of total economic activity, other sectors grew, in particular the tourism sector as demonstrated by the growth in hotels and restaurants,” it said.

“Subsistence farming and sugarcane production had traditionally been the mainstay of Fiji’s agriculture sector. Over the past 10 years, these subsectors had shrunk while the shares of other crops, livestock, and the public sector have increased.

“The doubling of the shares of other crops sub-sector is an indication of increased transformation from subsistence to semi-commercial farming. The other crops sub-sector has now surpassed sugar cane as the dominant sub-sector in primary agriculture.”

The share of sugar sub-sector in the primary agriculture GDP shrunk by 50 per cent while the other crops and livestock sector had contributed an average 6.8 per cent of GDP in the past decade.

“The sector includes traditional food crops (dalo, cassava and yaqona), tropical fruits (pineapple, pawpaw and mango), vegetables, spices, cocoa, coconut products, beef, dairy, pork, poultry, and goat and bee stocks,” the report said.

“The sector generates close to 5 per cent of domestic exports and accounts for 19.6 per cent of total food imports. The other crops sub-sector is mainly driven by the root crops and horticulture industry.”

The report identified major commodities such as dalo, ginger, papaya, pineapples, eggplant, okra, and breadfruit.

“Dalo and cassava are the most planted root crops with the former geared mainly for the export market. Small-scale processing of cassava into chips has provided an additional local market for the root crop.

“The production of fruits and vegetables and BQA commodities has been erratic mainly due to the impact of natural disasters.”

The report said the livestock sub-sector was dominated by the beef and dairy production. Both industries had been in decline in the past decade because of low private sector investment, impact of diseases such as tuberculosis and brucellosis, and poor quality breeding and milking stock.