THE Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) remains committed to delivering Sape Farm and Varivao Holdings Ltd National Food Bank projects despite budget pressures brought to by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under the National Food Bank project, MAL to support the construction of pack houses as storage rooms for Cassava root crops for Sape Farm at Ngalibiu, North Guadalcanal Plains and for Varivao Holdings Ltd at its Ranadi site.
The projects were part of the government’s initiative to support its (government) Food Security Programme in the country. “…now we are focusing on economic recovery so will increase production to export more cassava and other root crops this year onward,” MAL Permanent Secretary Ms. Ethel Tebengi Frances said.
The PS said that “since the production of cassava increased in the country, there are a lot of interests from international buyers and so we will support our farmers to produce to that interests, so yes, a lot of exciting times ahead.”
“Implementation of the projects should have been started last year, however, due to budget limitations, it has been reprioritized and waiting for this year’s development budget.”
Despite the slow progress as the government processes and Covid-19 pressures is concerned, MAL is devoted to delivering and would like to thank both project recipients for their understanding and patience. MAL also conveyed its gratitude to Sape Farm management for its partnership with Varivao Holdings Ltd for the export of cassava to Melbourne Australia last year.
Deputy Secretary Technical of MAL, Michael Ho’ota conveyed the appreciation in a handover ceremony of a new backhoe to Sape farm on 5th February to maximise productivity.
He said Sape Farm should have process its own cassava for direct export but due to the delay in the construction of a packhouse storage room for the farm, they have to initially collaborate with Varivao Holdings for the export market.
Mr. Ho’ota assured that the government through MAL remains committed and will make sure it delivers the projects this year as soon as the 2021 national development budget is blessed and ready for implementation.
Meanwhile, Sape Farm managing Director, Dr. Paul Bosawai Popora said they are taking the alternative and partnered with Varivao due to the packhouse construction delay but thanked the government through MAL for its boundless efforts and continuous commitment towards the growth of agriculture in the country.
He said this month (February) they are working in partnership with Varivao to process and produce 14 tonnes of cassava for the export market.
“We have potential now on the ground with more than 300 to 400 tonnes which is about 400,000 kilos of cassava were equivalent to about a value of $800,000 thousand dollars. If we go with close economics of cassava multiply by 2 annually that’s about 1.6 million and then multiply by 0.3 for government tax to improve our economy.
“So there are lots of things we are yet to do apart from what we see now on the ground,” he said.
At the same time DST, Michael Ho’ota said cassava is becoming one of the important upcoming industries in the country adding the ministry is eyeing ways to improve it in the future.
“Initially Sape farm was established and supported by the government through MAL for food security. We were worried last year that the import of rice could be stopped because of Covid-19, and so, we quickly came up with plans and develop cassava production here (sape farm), so that if rice import affected we can still have the option on stable food to ensure everyone in town have food,” Mr. Ho’ota emphasized.
Sape Farm has expanded over the past 8 months and currently has 21 hectares of cassava and 20 hectares of potato on the ground.