Jun 29, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

Fiji’s sole but struggling rice producer, Rewa Rice Limited has welcomed the entry of Grace Roads Limited, a South Korean investor built on Christians’ apocalyptic principles, into the local rice industry.

A miller for rice paddy, Rewa Rice Limited is a government-owned company that buys paddy from farmers all over Fiji. Their mill is located in Dreketi, in Fiji’s northern island of Vanua Levu. Company Manager, Ashrit Pratap says Grace Road farms will supplement rice production in Fiji as Rewa Rice alone does not have the capacity to satisfy local demands. “The government aims to reduce rice imports and be fully self-sufficient by year 2020,” said Pratap.

“Therefore we do not see Grace Road as a competition but we see them as a partner to achieve our aims to reduce imports and promote local rice.” Grace Roads Group is a Korean Christian group that made landfall in Fiji in 2014 with the aim of introducing and developing organic farming in the country, and have built their own rice mill. President Daniel Kim says Fiji was a good place for investment, and a greater place for their mission – 

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Botanist pollinates 8000 hybrid varieties

AN indian botanist left Vanuatu at the end of June a proud scientist after a successful pollination and breeding programme on yams. Dr Kuttolarnadathil Abraham, 60, pollinated 8000 hybrids of Vanuatu yam within the one month he spent in the country. Dr K. Abraham - as he is known because of the difficulty locals face pronuncing his first name, expected half of them to survive and be ready for harvest by October this year. The Indian yam expert was sent to Vanuatu by the World Bank to assist improve the country’s yam varieties and especially to develop climate change resistant varieties. Doctor Abraham said Vanuatu has rich soil and has tremendous natural resources but these are largely unexploited and unused. He said he has spent more than three decades on yam breeding in India but Vanuatu has more varieties than his country. “It is important to get resilient varieties against climate change.

“With heavy rain fall and drought, Vanuatu could easily lose its current yam varieties so it is way better for the country to prepare against this possibility.” Dr Abraham said yam was a major crop in Vanuatu and other Pacific island countries. His research showed that the country had a rich genetic resource of yams, which could be useful for breeding.

Yam breeding in Vanuatu and in the Pacific has not been very popular, the visiting botanist said, but people have to work more on their land and produce more root crops such as yams. Dr Abraham first visited Vanuatu in 2004. He said yam breeding is necessary as an important measure against climate change, and also because of the rapid increase in the country’s population.

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Tongan vanilla to bounce back

Top brands to drum up production

Tonga’s vanilla industry is looking promising again as local growers and exporters clinch new deals likely to lift output over the next year. This comes as the island kingdom enters a very difficult phase economically and any progress in local industries is an important contribution to its recovery. “The vanilla industry used to be very strong many years ago but over time it has decreased with the fluctuating international process,” Ian Jones, director of Vava’u-based virgin coconut oil exporter Taste of Tonga told Islands Business.

Vava’u’s warm tropical climate and generally fertile soil makes it an ideal location for vanilla cultivation and it is Tonga’s vanilla growing center. But Tonga’s vanilla heydays are gone. “Only 105 of the plantations are currently producing vanilla beans. Most are neglected,” said Jones. He plays a key role in a new partnership between local vanilla growers and Queen Fine Foods, an Australian-based family-owned business specialising in the development of vanilla products and their distribution in Australia and New Zealand. Queen’s investment, significant by Tonga’s vanilla industry scale, will see the development of the Queen Vanilla Curing Certification Course (QVCCC) to help grower members of the scheme develop sustainable farming practices.

It will also provide farmers with the critical curing facilities and farmers’ education in vanilla curing. Jones, a director of Vava’u-based Taste of Tonga and principally a virgin coconut oil exporter, will help this vanilla project as Queen’s man on the ground in Vava’u to roll out its vanilla revival plans. His business acumen, management and leadership skills and good relationship with farmers in Vava’u will see him administering the quality and training programmes.

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Rake in additional economic benefits

Fairtrade certification of sugar cane in Vanua Levu, Fiji, is producing significant economic benefits, according to a new study by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). The report estimates, taking into account all costs and benefits, that the economic impact of Fairtrade certification of all farmers serving the Labasa sugar mill in Vanua Levu amounts to F$9,094,473, assuming the benefits and costs are incurred over a 12-year period.

This represents a return of F$6.48 dollars for every dollar spent on gaining certification, including those spent by farmers and donors—the European Union (EU), which is the principal contributor, as well as SPC. For context, the total revenue for all growers in Fiji was F$85,100,000 in 2011, according to the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s 2011 Annual Report, and the average net benefit from Fairtrade certification in Vanua Levu alone is F$757,872, assuming as the study does, a mid-range estimate of a total of seven years of certification and an additional five years of benefit from expenditure of funds saved during certification.

However, one important implication of the SPC report is that extending certification to other mills is likely to bring several million dollars worth of additional economic benefit to sugar cane growers in Fiji at relatively low cost. Moreover, it is in the interest of growers to remain certified and receive the associated benefits for as many years as possible.

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Aquaponics - A project spearheaded by the Auckland offices of Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I), the trade and investment arm of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and co-funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme, a set of three aquaponics systems were formally inaugurated in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands on the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum Summit. Combining the best features of aquaculture and hydroponics, in which nutrient rich fish water is used to grow plants, aquaponics addresses the region's food growing challenges and the general food security situation more efficiently than any other agricultural method. The basic science behind this technology is an effective balance of fish waste release to plant nutrient uptake.

This unique knowledge, scientifically developed over seven years of research and field testing, is being brought to the Pacific Islands region by Melbourne based scientist Wilson Lennard, PhD, and Adam Denniss, PT&I's Auckland based Trade Commissioner. The Pacific is the first to see and use this leading research fine-tuned over 12 years. ## How aquaponics works Aquaponics uses highly nutritious fish water that contains almost all of the required natural elements for optimum plant growth, therefore eliminating the need for chemical additives for growing the plants. Rather than discharging the nutrient-rich waste water into the environment, as is done in aquaculture, aquaponics uses the plants to clean and remove nutrients and then re-establish the water balance which is then returned back to the fish tank. 

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