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The country’s think tank- National Research Institute believes Tourism, Agriculture and Fisheries sectors are receiving little government attention to stimulate their growth.
Head of NRI, Dr Charles Yala says these sectors are the economic backbones of the country.
He spoke in light of the current debate on the status of the economy triggered by the release of the Mid Year Economic and Financial Outlook- a report by the Treasury.
Yala said NRI could not speculate on what the real status of the economy is like until it receives official data about it.
He however stressed that the country could not rely heavily on mining and petroleum alone as revenue streams.
It must activate its Tourism, Agriculture and Fisheries sectors, he said.
Yala said coffee production has sadly dropped from a million bags per year- a record 10 year figure, to now between six hundred to seven hundred thousand per year.
“Agriculture is on a decline,” he affirmed.
“Coffee Industry Corporation is yet to release figures but I predict it will be around six hundred thousand bags.”
“Coffee is down and the same is applying to cocoa and copra,” Yala said.
“So our what is called agriculture sector, the backbone of the economy where 85 or 75 per cent rely on is really really coming down.”
Yala who recently took over from Dr Thomas Webster said a decline in the agriculture sector is a result of many issues and among them transportation, law and order, and land issues.
“Fundamental reforms are required to kick start the agriculture sector, putting it on a safe path,” he suggested.
Yala was concerned why the country was producing a million bags of coffee per year when there was much land available.
“Why producing one million when we have the finest land in the country to grow the finest Arabica coffee which is used in so many blends globally.”
“That’s a serious issue,” he said.
Yala said on a brighter note though, Oil Palm is picking up and growing but is hurdled by the SABL inquiry.
“There are many good oil palm developers,” he said.
“The inability of the government to be forthright with the implementation of the findings in providing clear direction on SABL is affecting and creating uncertainty on the Oil Palm industry.”
“So when you look at agriculture… oil palm has come to pick up but coffee, cocoa and copra are down hill.”
“Food production, we have ignored,” Yala said.
On the Tourism sector, he was very concerned that we have not really got into it.
“We haven’t built tourism,” Yala was blunt.
“The flight from Jackson’s to anywhere within the country is far more expensive than a flight from Jackson to Cairns or Brisbane.”
He said neighboring Melanesian Fiji rides on Tourism despite its challenges with coup and what they have invested on was building great infrastructure.
“We have far better beaches than Fiji.”
“I have not seen us taking the fundamentals right,” Yala said.