FIJI - The Ministry of Agriculture remains tight-lipped on the plight of a group of Vatukoula dairy farmers seeking assistance with the running of their business.
The farmers called for an increase in milk sale price and cited transportation issues and the rejection of fresh milk by a buyer as obstacles to the successful running of their operation.
Last month, The Fiji Times Online highlighted the challenges faced by more than 24 dairy farmers from Koro Naba Dua settlement, where farmers shared the struggle they went through just to earn an income to sustain their farms.
Koro Naba Dua advisory councillor Hirdesh Nand said the farmers had been approached by Ministry of Agriculture officials, but discussions had not resolved anything yet.
Mr Nand said to operate his farm, he would need to earn more than $10,000 annually to maintain the farm and invest in its growth.
He said the farmers had been requesting an increase to the price of milk sold to their buyer.
Mr Nand said the farmers were paid 80 cents for every litre of milk sold — a decrease from the initial $1 per litre paid in 2012.
Questions sent two weeks ago to the Ministry of Agriculture and the buyer remained unanswered when this edition went to press last night.
Fiji Cooperative Dairy Company Ltd director Kashmir Singh said the milk price issue was considered during the restructure period from 2010 to 2011.
Mr Singh said discussions did not centre on costing despite several workshops being held with dairy farmers and the agreed price of $1 VEP was approved.
"This price was paid to farmers for the period January to August 2012," he said.
"The price was dropped to $1.00 VIP after September 2012, when Government sold Fiji Dairy Ltd, previously known as Rewa Corporative Dairy Company Ltd, to Southern Foods.
"The restructure of RCDCL was agreed with the establishment of two companies — Fiji Dairy Ltd as the sole processor of milk in Fiji and be responsible for setting up chilling centres in all town centres in Fiji, while Fiji Cooperative Dairy Company Ltd totally owned by stakeholders to purchase milk from farmers and advise farmers on their quality issues and provide farm support to increase milk production.
"Government also decided to support subsidy funding to FCDCL for the betterment of the farmers."
Mr Singh said he agreed there was a need for an increase in milk prices as production costs continued to increase.
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