Agriculture, along with forestry and fisheries contributes around 10% of the country’s GDP and employs almost 2,000 Fijians (2010). The Fijian agriculture sector is a mix of commercial and subsistence farming, although commercial farming predominates. This industry was once the backbone of the Fiji’s economy with sugarcane as the main crop. However, in recent years the government has made steps to decrease the economy’s reliance on this crop by supporting the production of other goods such as coconuts, bananas and cereals, with a focus on supplying the tourism industry. As a result, non-sugarcane crops contributed around three times more than that of sugar cane in 2010, although as a single export sugar was the most profitable, generating US$37m. Agricultural land accounts for 22.9% of total land area, largely flat fertile land in valleys, river deltas and on the coastal plains.
The majority of Fijian households grow both food and cash crops, alongside the work of a wage earner. In the wet areas the dominant crops are coconuts, ginger, cassava, taro, kava, bananas and breadfruit, along with poultry, pigs and cattle. In the areas with intermediate rainfall, growers concentrate on vegetables, cocoa, passion-fruit and maize, as well as some sorghum, potatoes and turmeric. The sugarcane industry is managed by the government body the Fiji Sugar Corporation. The sugar is largely grown in the drier north eastern side of the islands, by around 22,5000 small scale sugar farmers, each with an average of four or five hectares. The other major cash crop is coconuts, grown both on estates and by smallholders, largely exported in the form of copra. Root crops like taro and kava are also important exports, whilst a new quarantine treatment facility has raised exports of fresh fruit, which are sold largely to Japan and New Zealand. Additionally, 1,000 tonnes of banana, mango and guava purees are exported annually, mainly to Europe and Australia. At a federal level the Department of Agriculture is part of the Ministry of Primary Industries.
The profitability of the sugar industry has been to a large extent thanks to preferential trade agreement, such as the Lome Convention Sugar Protocol. The country needs to plan for the ending of such agreements, to review its agriculture sector and consider how to retain its competitive position on world markets. Additionally, the industry may need to alter payment to farmers based on both the quality and quantity of their sugar cane, rather than just by weight, in order to sustain quality of sugar.
The future of the industry also depends on dealing with issues relating to the property system. Most sugar farmers are Indian Fijians who lease their land from the Fijian clans, administered by the Native Land Trust Board. The country must deal with political questions relating to the land lease, many of which are expiring and have no guarantee of renewal.