Free seeds from government for urban farms

FREE seeds will be made available to residents in densely populated suburbs nationwide this week in a government measure to address food security threats stemming from the COVID19 pandemic.

The measure is designed to help individual households produce their own vegetables as leaders work to cushion the impact of a reduction to international trade. 

In the programme, Ministry of Agriculture staff will deliver starter packs to 30 per cent households over three months. 

Agriculture Minister Dr. Mahendra Reddy said the Home Gardening Programme aims to put an urban farm in every household his staff visits. 

“For urban households we are urging (them) to utilise their backyards and plots of land around their home. We want every household in the urban areas to get a package. In the first round we are targeting 30 percent of households,” Dr. Reddy said. 

“In this package there will be seeds and planting materials for 12 crops, short term crops  so that urban households can secure fresh vegetables for their households like bele cuttings, tomato and cabbage and bean seeds will be there.” 

The ministry also has a Farm Support Package where farmers get free seeds and planting materials for up to three short term crops.

Available from Monday March 30 at the ministry’s extension offices nationwide, Dr Reddy said farmers can choose crops such as rice, dalo, kumala and cassava among others.

“So they will choose the planting material they want and the package will need to be planted in a quarter acre land  in the first round.”

A notice posted March 31 on the MOA’s social media platforms indicate the program began March 30 and will run for two weeks.

“Round Two of the program will begin from 15th April. Round Three will begin from 30th April.”

The Home Gardening Program intends to assist a total of 5000 households in the first round whilst the farm support program would assist a total of 1415 farmers.

Meanwhile the ministry is keeping a close watch on markets in the lockdown area following complaints of price gouging and has threatened that its  Agro Marketing Authority will conduct retail of fresh produce itself if market vendors do not comply with directives to reduce mark up.

Currently the AMA transports fresh produce into Lautoka to sell to the city’s vendors.

“We will continue with that operation during the lockdown period to ensure consumers within the Lautoka confined area will continue to have adequate supply of fresh vegetables.” 

“We want to urge market vendors not to take advantage of consumers by hiking up prices. I want to give caution to market vendors if this practice continues then the Agro Marketing Authority and MOA will set up retail tables around the market area and will retail vegetables to the consumers.”

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