Turaga na Tui Macuata and Director of Fiji Rice,
Ratu Wiliame Katonivere;
Honourable Cabinet Ministers;
Chairman of Fiji Rice, Mr Raj Sharma;
Staff of Fiji Rice;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka, and a very good morning to you all.
Just yesterday, I was in Vunivau, where I had the pleasure of handing over a new, $60,000-Dollar rice harvester that will instantly uplift the lives of the rice farmers who have long manually toiled the fields.
While there, I stressed that my Government is committed to bolstering Fiji’s domestic Rice Industry, and our agro-economy as a whole, through targeted assistance to farmers all throughout Fiji. To get there, we need to tap into new innovations, and explore new ways of serving our vital agricultural sector – and our hardworking rice farmers are no exception.
That’s what brings me here today, as we open this new Fiji Rice Limited (FRL) Office building. This new Office will ensure FRL is well-equipped to keeping its documents in order, and you now also have a proper Board Room for hosting meetings with stakeholders at your disposal.
Over the past few years, we’ve given rice farmers in Dreketi new trucks, tractors, and an excavator –and I’m told your new Government-funded warehouse is also nearing completion. But we’re dedicated to improving every part of our farmers’ lives, and we know that – for the farmers surrounding Dreketi – your time and labour wasn’t limited to the rice paddy.
Your farmers previously had to travel all the way to the office in Labasa – an entire day’s journey – simply to pick up their cheques. But now, with this new Dreketi FRL Office, those days are over. I hear that FRL is also encouraging farmers to open personal bank accounts, as they expect to be able to deposit pay-outs directly into farmers’ accounts – so take advantage of a new and more modern FRL.
But we’re not resting here. I’m told that FRL also plans to upgrade its IT system in the near future, linking it directly with Head Office in Labasa, which would place FRL in a position to engage in real time data-entry for its stock.
By cutting out manual data-entry and taking another step into the future, FRL will continue to build on the progress that we’ve achieved with this new Office.
As you can see on full display today, your Government is committed to FRL’s success – and, more importantly, the success of our rice farmers.
So as we look to the future, we will continue to support FRL in its ultimate goal of making Fijian rice production self-sufficient in the years to come. Because there’s no reason that the journey rice takes from seed to harvest to mill to our kitchens and restaurants, can’t all happen right here in Fiji. And that journey, my friends, starts in Dreketi.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you, and God bless Fiji.