Minister for Agriculture and Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu says Government is doing all it can to help farmers hit by the two recent cyclones.
He was responding to farmers in the Sigatoka Valley who complained against the conduct of district and agricultural officers.
They complained to Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum about the officers’ inability to serve people.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had led a team to deliver food rations at the Sigatoka Valley. He saw for himself that farmers lost up to 90 per cent of their crop during the floods.
Farmers informed him that despite the nearest agriculture office being mere 10 minutes away from where the farms were destroyed, but no one had made any visits to assess the damage.
He was further informed that the agricultural officers were not fair in distribution of fertiliser and while some farmers who were on good terms with agriculture officers received truckloads of fertiliser, others were ignored.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was also told by farmers that they appreciated the hard work done by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and by the Attorney-General in implementing positive policies, the inability of staff on the field to objectively implement the policies was hurting people.
Mr Seruiratu said the Ministry of Agriculture was perhaps the first to complete its survey after the flooding.
“We have two incidents of flooding and cyclones in a row and what is unclear to me is when this damage was sustained. But the ministry will again make another round of surveys in the next three days starting tomorrow.
“I want to make it clear that chances are that some can be left out in the initial survey because of inaccesibility because in some instances, when we came to conduct the surveys some areas were still under water (road) and some due to fallen trees, landslide, etc. Farmers need to understand this.
“On food, distribution it is ongoing and is the responsibility of Commissioner and DO. But this depends on the packaging too of family packs from the supplier. Not everyone can be provided their pack at the same time, but no one will be left out eventually.
“On fertiliser, the Ministry of Agriculture has not distributed a single bag of fertiliser during this post-disaster assistance. These are old complaints from farmers. They complain about unfair distribution but this is because the Sigatoka Valley Programme provides fertiliser subsidy to farmers. So the distribution is done according to what farmers pay therefore whoever pays more gets more and it’s not about fair distribution.
“But be assured government officials are going their best to assist all affected communities. I have instructed the agriculture staff to make an advertisement on phone numbers to be contacted should farmers have issues to raise.”
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum informed them he had taken note of their concerns and he would ensure that corrective steps were taken. He further informed them that through the civil service reform they intend to have people appointed on merit who will perform their duties well.
Following his assessment of flood ravaged areas, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has noted that Fiji’s foreign earnings will take a hit.