Calamities brought by the Covid-19 pandemic on local farmers with associated measures taken to control the virus is concerning as it impacted lives of many farmers.
Minister for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) Hon. Senley Levi Filualea told Parliament.
“…as the Minister for agriculture, I am very concern because this pandemic and the associated measures taken to contain it is already impacting the lives of our many farmers and the most vulnerable group – our women – because many of them who work in the informal roadside markets in urban areas depend heavily on their daily sales for survival,” Hon. Minister Filualea said while contributing to the Sine die motion recently.
However, he said the previous mock lock down allowed MAL to assess its level of readiness adding the ministry was able to learn first-hand the hardships many of our people faced and the challenges of living on day by day sales.
“Our fear is that should there be a lock down our farmers will not be able to sell their farm produce and we will not have access to fresh food.
“My ministry in response allocated support from the COVID-19 livelihood funds to co-fund the Honiara City Council with the construction of Kukum market so that in the event of a lockdown where social distancing will be enforced there are other market outlets for farmers to sell their produce.
“My ministry through the livelihood committee also trialled Mobile Marketing during the mock lock down exercise with vendor association at the Central Market and found it to be very successful. So we have these plans on standby should there be a lockdown, but these will not in any way prevent the inevitable impacts any lockdown will bring to the economy as a whole,” Hon. Filualea stated.
On travel restrictions, Hon. Minister Filualea said the travel restrictions not only affects the tourism industry but is adversely affecting our farmers as demand for fresh farm produce is no longer coming from hotels and restaurants and if it does, are at smaller volume than it used to.
“My ministry wants to seize new opportunities to fulfil our critical primary and strategic objectives of ensuring the country’s food and nutritional security requirements are met and progressively expanding agriculture to its full potential to raise our national income and become the leading export earner in the country at the same time addressing our secondary objectives of improving the livelihood of our rural communities and creating employment opportunities.
“During the start of the pandemic there was panic around the globe about the impact it will have on food production and supply. The threat on food security is still a great concern because of the continuing increasing numbers of COVID-19 positive cases causing further restrictions on people’s movements.
“These restrictions exposed our heavy reliance on imports. We cannot afford to be depending on other countries to feed our own people any more. We have to invest and build our own food reserves. We have to be self-reliant,” Hon. Filualea emphasised.
He further told Parliament that Climate Change is believe to be one factor driving the spread of pests and diseases around the globe and so this year alone his ministry restricted importation of poultry meat and pork from certain sources outside the country due to animal diseases.
“Climate change is a threat to food security and so we must be prepared and start building our own food reserves,” Hon. Filualea added.