|Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at Navua Prawn Hatchery.|
Initial figures reveal that Fiji has to import 600 tonnes of prawns as the local production can only yield 100 tonnes even though there is potential for self-sufficiency in this area.
Interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama this week visited the Dairy Farms of Fiji Prawn Farm in Navua to see the mechanics of the aquaculture industry in Fiji.
He also wanted to gauge the scope for expansion and investment in this highly lucrative sector.
The farm, which is the largest freshwater aquaculture facility in the South Pacific, produced 19 tonnes of prawns last year but the targeted production is 24 tonnes per annum with a projected income of $250,000.
Permanent Secretary in the Prime Ministers Office Parmesh Chand, who also accompanied the PM on the trip to Navua, said the issue of whether there will be more similar prawn farms will be a matter to be discussed with the line Ministry, Primary Industry.
The Interim PM was particularly impressed by the involvement of young people in the farm with seven university graduates employed full-time there.
|Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama inspecting Malaysian Prawns.|
The DFF prawn farm specialises in giant Malaysian river prawn which has been labelled the “Fiji Blue Prawn” because of its blue claws and tail.
The aquaculture facility was part of the Government’s Viti-Corp farm but is now leased to DFF with the prawn farm established in October 2005.
A Fellow at USP’s IMR department Avinash Singh said there was potential to expand to meet local demand but not many had shown interest.
"The main reason why we did not have so many farms before was due to two reasons; the unavailability of baby (juvenile) prawns and locally produced feed," he said.
"Now we have both these important ingredients, the market is there, there is decent money to be made but so far there haven’t been that many people interested."
The reluctance shown by local investors has resulted in New Caledonia, with less ideal conditions than Fiji, produce 2000 tonnes of prawns annually.
The DFF/USP hatchery has the ability to supply juvenile prawns to its own farm as well as meet the demand from local and regional prawn farms.
"A hatchery is expensive to operate and requires large volume of orders to make production cost productive," Mr Singh said.
He said so far they had only supplied 3000-4000 juvenile prawns to small farms but were capable of meeting a greater demand.
Mr Bainimarama also visited the DFF dairy farm and held a lengthy discussion with Manager David Wilson.