The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Management will commence visitations to the provinces to follow-up and evaluate the impact of a series of extension forums that were conducted in 2019 with the extension officers throughout the country.
The main purpose of visiting the Assistant Agriculture Officers (AAO) in their areas, as scheduled in DARD’s 2020 Business Plan, is to find out their needs and challenges and how the forums have assisted them to address skills gaps and needs identified.
The first visitation will be made to SANMA Province next week on Monday February 17 and Friday 21 February 2020.
DARD Management Team visitation amalgamates with the Agriculture Regulations validation workshop on Tuesday February 18, 2020 and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) mini retreat that will be held on Wednesday February 19 and Thursday February 20, 2020 on Santo to relook at the 2019 resolutions.
The new Agriculture Act was passed in parliament in 2018 to provide for the management of the agriculture sector, especially with the commercial production.
The Act has mandated the Department of Agriculture to take lead on its implementation.
DARD’s Acting Deputy Director, Mark Vurobaravu stated, “In the Act, one of its main focus is promoting and regulating the commercial production of agricultural crops.
“For so long the agriculture sector had no proper coordination on promoting agricultural crops and its production for food security and for commercial purposes to earn income and improve the livelihood of farmers who intend to invest in agriculture sector.
“The Agriculture Act also provides specific directions and requirements to enable you or farmers to become a commercial operator in agriculture,” he said.
Farmers or local investors need to meet standard requirements to qualify them as commercial operator and pave way to better manage this sector.
Mr Vurobaravu continued, “The facilitation of ways to properly manage the agriculture sector commenced with the Vanuatu Agriculture Sector Policy that was developed in 2015 and the legislation is a backup of the policy for any interested people or famers that intend to invest in agriculture, the Act provides support and the policy sets directions to venture into agriculture business.
“Consultations and awareness of the act have been conducted in some provinces of Vanuatu and the next step is to develop regulations that the minister will have in place for implementation to manage the agriculture sector.
“Part of the regulation stated that if you want to invest in agriculture as a business, you have to meet certain requirements, with a focus on foreign investors who intend to invest in agriculture and what type of crops they wish to venture into for commercial purposes in a commercial operation.
“On the other hand, we want to focus too on our local investors who want to go commercial so the draft regulations also gather for local investors.
“In order to have authorization to operate commercial agriculture, the regulations provide for an application to be submitted to the DARD Director’s office to access a permit.
“Consultations and awareness in the provinces also consider the people’s views on how the permit system will be implemented.
“We have similar systems already in place. For example, in the industry, processing and value adding is regulated through the implementation of a permit system.
“Within that system, the Agriculture Act prescribes 19 commodities or crops that you can cultivate as a business.
“The 19 commodities are in the schedule of the Agriculture Act which include sweet potato, rice, peanut, corn, vegetables, island cabbage, yam, taro, cassava, Banana and Vanuatu’s main cash crops like cocoa, coffee, kava, coconut and spices like pepper and vanilla and fruit trees like Tahitian lime, pawpaw and noni.
“According to the regulation, if anyone proposes to do a business in agriculture involving one of the 19 prescribed commodities, they must apply to the Director of DARD to obtain a permit for commercial operation.
“Currently DARD is at a stage of developing forms, their requirements and categories. Each prescribed commodity has its business category.
“For example, sweet potato or kumala has three proposed categories that the agriculture regulation validation workshop will validate whether it needs to have three, two or one category.
“For sweet potato (kumala), it has three categories if you prefer to grow sweet potato for commercial production as sweet potato (kumala ) farmer, market vendor or exporter. So these are what we call business categories. If you apply to the Director of agriculture for a permit, those are the business categories,” Mr Vurobaravu said.
He continues that there are over 60 business categories being developed for the 19 commodities that anyone can apply for to obtain a permit to operate commercially on agriculture.
“The current climate of our legislation, for those of us operating a business, will be aware of the Business License Act under the Department of Customs, in agriculture sector, we have only three or four categories which is very broad, no specification but under the current Agriculture Act, we want to expand these to over 60 business categories to better address the 19 prescribed commodities especially in terms of promoting their commercial production.
“For each business category, for example, to become a sweet potato commercial farmer, we are looking at what the minimum requirement or standards are, so that in agriculture we want to develop minimum standard for farmers who want to become commercial sweet potato producers . There must be minimum standards to qualify you to obtain a permit to produce sweet potato commercially and this is similar to other commodities under the Agriculture Act.”
Acting Deputy Director Vurobaravu concluded, “The important thing that we need to validate is the business categories of each crop, that is why we will invite technical people within the sector like crop specialists, provincial managers, directors or representatives of the Industry and Customs because they are our stakeholders in business. Because we want to implement those ideas in agriculture, we need to have their views to finalize the business categories.
“The one-day validation workshop next week Tuesday February 18, 2020 will finalize and validate the business categories of Agriculture Act in its new regulations and the next step is to look at each business categories and their minimum standards.” CAPTION:
Agriculture Regulations Consultation with Tanna Coffee factory, Tanna