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Agritourism: Are we headed the right way?

This article is posted on behalf of the PacAgriTo social Media team.

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Agribusiness is not a foreign term in the Pacific, where most of the countries rely on agriculture as a source of income. To those who may be unacquainted to the term, especially if you’re on the western part of Fiji, just take a look out of the window, the sugarcane you see is an example. While agribusiness may not be something new, on the other hand agritourism is not so common.

The state of Agriculture

Let’s face the facts. There are times when the weather in Fiji is not favorable for agricultural growth. I hate to be pessimistic but I simply can’t say that the sky is green. Back to the point, half of the year there is so much rain that practically all the crops are destroyed in terms of quality and quantity. In adition to this, due to the rain, parts of Fiji get flooded, and the November to April period is famous for squally thunderstorms, cyclones and some of the worst floods recorded in the history of Fiji.

The other half of the year we have Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) crying about the shortage of water at Monasavu dam. In case you are still not able to connect the dots, I am talking about droughts. Days get colder and there is no rain. Some years, the price of vegetables is so expensive that it is cheaper for us to buy canned fruits and veggies to satisfy the Aphrodite of appetite.

Of course this is not true for all the years, the last major flood in Nadi was in 2012. The point is that the climate in Fiji is one of the major factors that has put the agricultural sector at the edge of the cliff.

The other factor is the government, maybe I am being myopic; but as far as I can see is that the government’s contribution to push the agricultural sector in comparison to the efforts put in for tourism is merely a speck.

To promote agritourism we need to have agriculture first. Not that it is non-existent but it’s not steady to accommodate tourism-based activities.

What’s my take on agritourism?

Well, by now you would have had a succinct picture of the situation. Personally I think we have had enough of snorkeling, diving, kayaking and basically playing the sea. I am pretty sure even the returning tourists have stopped coming, because of the narrow range of activities.

Conversely, there are other activities such as hosting a food festival that strictly features food made from local ingredients. Trust me, Fiji is just as rich in terms of delicacies as it is in language.

In India, even the foreign dishes are modified to their taste and preference, you wouldn’t believe the shock I had when I first heard the idea of ‘masala pasta’. It had me disgruntled that they would modify a foreign food to their taste, but the moment I took the first bite it was something different.

Not that I am encouraging modification of food, but let’s take New York Pizza Kitchen (NYPK) at Tappoocity Suva, I am not too good with my taste buds, but I could make out the basil sauce which is used in their pizzas.

Apart from food festivals, another way of promoting agritourism is simply by sticking to Fijian food. I get ticked off when I go to Islands for day cruise and they offer BBQ for lunch, for the amount I pay I expect a good lovo.

What’s next?

Who knows? Maybe in the next decades to come, agritourism will be the next big thing in Fiji and the Agriculture sector, which is literally dead will be revitalised. But for now, I see no light at the end of the tunnel. This is a wake up call for our farmers to take actions, get involved, innovate, and for the policy makers to be more vicious in promoting agriculture.

What’s your thought? Feel free to drop a comment or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #PacAgriTo!

Blogpost by Avneel Abhishay, Social Reporter for the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week 2015.

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29 June 2015

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