Agriculture, which was once a major stronghold of Fiji’s economy, now comprises only 8.9% of the nation’s GDP. More than three-quarters of all Fijian households used to engage in agricultural-related activities, but now many of those workers have switched over to the growing service industry.
Sugarcane is Fiji’s most important agricultural industry, accounting for over one-third of all of Fiji’s industrial activity. Indigenous Fijians own most farmland and local residents of Indian ancestry farm it and produce about 90% of all sugarcane, which is then processed into raw sugar and molasses in the Fiji Sugar Corporation, which is predominantly owned and run by the government. The European Union is the largest export market for Fiji’s sugar.
Coconut and copra (the dried meat of the coconut) are also important agricultural products that are widely used and exported from Fiji. There was a ban on exporting copra until 1998, and since then a new copra-buying company has emerged, raising the price of copra considerably. Fiji also grows and exports bananas, pineapples, watermelons, cereal, rice, corn, ginger, cocoa and tobacco.
A flood in January 2009 devastated areas in the central and western regions of Fiji and destroyed most of the farmland in Sigatoka Valley, an area that supplies 70% of vegetables to all local farms. Agricultural production suffered massively and relief from Fiji’s government, as well as seedlings donated by the Taiwan Technical Mission and AUSAID allowed many farmers to stabilize their vegetable production and make up some of the profits they lost due to the flood.
According to the Fiji government, the January flood as well as the devaluation of the Fiji dollar by 20% (which also happened in 2009), have had a positive impact on agricultural production by adding value to harvested crops. Other sources indicate that the flood and the global economic crisis actually have the potential to devastate Fiji’s agricultural economy.
In April of 2009, the government of Taiwan advised Fiji to curtail its falling rate of the GDP in relation to agricultural production by vigilantly increasing its export business in whatever way possible. Currently, Fiji imports more than it exports, which contributes to its widescale trade deficit. In August 2009, the government of Australia announced that it would give Pacific island nations a relief package in the amount of $150 million to combat the effects of climate change on its agricultural production.
Every ten years since 1968, the government of Fiji has conducted an agriculture census, which enumerates and evaluates all farming programs by village, tikina and province. The information collected in the census is used by the government to make plans for agricultural reforms and rural development. The newest census has been conducted in 2009 and will be published at the end of the calendar year. (At the time of writing, new data was not available.)