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Mixed Farming Yields Positive Returns
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20 January 2011

 

 

 

Nawaicoba is located about 20 minutes outside of Nadi Town on the way to Sigatoka. Settled in gradually over the last six decades by cane farmers, Nawaicoba is now home to between 600 and 700 families who have helped build this thriving community.

Hajari Lal moved to Nawaicoba as a 17 year-old in 1964 from Qilawa with his family after his cane farming father acquired 118 acres of land.

Hajari, now 63, married Nitya Wati not long after the move to Nawaicoba and settled down on 15 acres of land that his father apportioned to him in 1965. Ever since, Hajari, like his father before him, has farmed sugar cane turning over an annual harvest of between 200 and 220 tonnes per season. For the 2009 season, he harvested 142 tonnes of cane, which he expects to drop to 120 tonnes for the 2010 season.

“In my father’s time, we collectively harvested about 1,500 tonnes every year but nowadays we harvest around 1,100 tonnes between me and my two brothers,” Hajari recalls.

“In the last few years I have noticed how hard it is to get labourers when harvesting season comes around and two years ago, I reached a turning point.

“In July (2009) I decided to clear about three acres after harvesting and instead of replanting cane, planted 1,200 pawpaw trees and within months it was fruiting until Cyclone Mick in December (2009) damaged about 200 of my trees but I have sincereplanted them and they are looking good.”

He sold the pawpaws for between 60 cents and a dollar per kilogramme. Seeing the financial windfall that could be if he went into fruit and vegetable farming on a bigger scale, Hajari approached the Fiji Development Bank in late 2009 and was approved for financing under the Agri-Finance Scheme. Agri- Finance is a social banking product for farmers who would like to access loans of up to $10,000 for farm development.

“My father was a client of FDB’s and it just made sense for me to go to FDB for financing and with the loan I have built a dam and put in water lines for irrigation for the fruits and vegetables,” Hajari said.

With the new irrigation system Hajari planted 400 capsicum and 200 tomato plants which were ready by the end of the second quarter last year. He sold these for $8 and $3 a kilo respectively. He has also cleared an additional acre to plant okra and cow peas with an additional acre set aside for 600 pawpaw trees which he started planting in October 2010.


“They are all looking really good and I hope to soon be harvesting
eight to ten boxes of pawpaw, tomatoes and capsicum a week,” he said.


The irrigation system purchased from FDB helped Hajari during
the prolonged dry spell. Even though the first borehole dried up he managed to find another water source from which he could redirect much needed water for his growing fruit and vegetable orchard.

Where cane was once the economic mainstay for the people who
lived here, harvest statistics kept by the Fiji Sugar Corporation shows otherwise. In 2009, Nawaicoba produced 70,777 tonnes of cane. In 2010, production was expected to decrease to 47,000 tonnes.

The issues plaguing the industry are many-fold. For farmers like Hajarai, the realities on the ground are too big to ignore and as anyone in his situation would, he adapted and found alternative solutions to his predicament.


The income generated this past year has also peaked the interest of
Hajari’s four brothers who are also seriously considering going into mixed farming like him. With only nine acres under cane, Hajari plans to gradually reduce the area under cane to 5.5 acres leaving the remainder for pawpaw and vegetables.

Meanwhile, in April (2010) the FDB Board approved changes to the Bank’s Agricultural Loan Policy in line with the Bank’s objective to grow the agricultural sector, provide food security for local consumption and have a positive impact on balance of payments through import substitution and increase in export value.

Government’s import substitution and export promotion policies centre on resource-based industries because it has enormous potential to remarkably improve not only livelihoods of the people who own them, but spur the self-sufficiency that Fiji needs to be able to counter the impact of inflation.

Changes to the Bank’s agricultural lending policy allows for flexibility on the security and equity that farmers will now need to secure a loan. Some of these changes include:


Equity Requirement

  •  Minimum equity has been reduced to 10% from the 20% subject to viability.
  •  If the viability does not exist then the discretion lies with the Management to increase the equity to a level where viability exists.

Land Lease

  •  Remaining term of leases with unexpired term of less than 10 years has been removed under the Exclusion clause.
  •  Class J leases are now included in the financing.

Term of Loan

  •  The term of loan will be subject to the remaining term of lease and not exceed 15 years. This includes remaining term for Class J leases.
  •  Where the remaining term is too low for viability, confirmation of renewal or extension must be sought.
  •  Due to the removal of exclusion clauses and possible reduction of the term of loan, repayment to be worked out based on the crop cycle and the Bank will recover the loan at the earliest time depending on the margin, loan amount and the turnover period. Options are available for risk management and refinancing.

    The above changes also include lending to sugar cane farmers.

 

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