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 team is currently visiting Sanma Province.
A 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.
“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.
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.
Photo supplied Caption: Agriculture Regulations consultation with Tanna Coffee factory, Tanna