19 Aug 2013

Shortage of copra meal hampers Fiji dairy farmers

7:14 pm on 19 August 2013

The Fiji dairy industry is suffering because of a decline in copra production.

The chief executive of the Fiji Co-operative Dairy Industry Ltd, Sachida Nand, says copra meal, because of its high protein content, is a key part of the diet of dairy cows.

But he says there is a substantial shortfall in what they need and what is being produced.

Mr Nand says the dairy industry requires 25 tonnes of copra meal each week but millers are only able to produce a quarter of that.

Fiji is only producing a fraction of copra it grew in colonial times.

Mr Nand explained the dilemma to Don Wiseman

SACHIDA NAND: In Fiji we rely on pasture plus feed supplements to get milk production so whilst we are continually trying to improve our pasture, we also need to feed our cows with supplements so that they can get enough dry matter into them to produce milk with the required minerals and proteins and other things. So three of the core feed supplements that we use here are copra meal, it supplies with the neccessary protein; and then milldrun which we call mill-mix and supplies the carbo-hydrates; and then we have molasses which supplies the energy. Apart from that then we also feed them with vitamins and minerals which we import.

DON WISEMAN: It would come as a surprise I imagine to most people listening around the Pacific that there's a shortage of copra, or a shortage of copra meal, a big gap in terms of what you want, and in terms of what's available. So what are the other options available for you?

SACHIDA NAND: We've got to feed them with protein supplements one way or another so what we are trying to do is we are now looking outside Fiji to secure protein supplements. We are trying to get some palm kernel milk, PKE, from PNG and Solomons.

DON WISEMAN: Are you in discussion with other divisions of agriculture about the possibility of this market that you'd like to tap but you can't because it doesn't exist?

SACHIDA NAND: Yes we are working with the Ministry of Agriculture because Agriculture has already started with an initiative to plant more trees and get more coconut trees but as you know it takes a bit of time for the tree to grow up and then start producing. But yes we are continuously liaising with eachother in terms of supplies here, and other ministries and divisions. Overnight results will not be achieved but in the long run, yes we are all working together ensuring that more trees are planted because you must understand that like any other tree or product there's a certain lifesp[an of a coconut tree and after that the tree starts to not produce economically. So the government is trying to plant more trees so that the reliance on imported protein supplements and other industries which are supported by coconut are not affected.