Fiji’s economy relies heavily on the agriculture sector for food and livelihood security, community development, and employs over 65% of Fiji’s population. It is evident that the key factor threatening the sustainable development of the agriculture sector is poor soil management and declining soil fertility, which are mainly caused by over-cropping and the heavy application of fertilisers. Soils in Fiji are acidic and soil improvement techniques are needed to replenish nutrients for improved soil pH. A common practice used in many countries to improve soil pH is the application of agricultural lime.
Agricultural lime is imported in Fiji and so it is expensive and rarely used. As a result, areas under intensive cultivation face acidic soil conditions which limit the uptake of nutrients from the soil and decrease farmers’ yields. Standard Concrete Industries is the largest manufacturer of concrete masonry blocks in Fiji and has an established lime quarry in Tailevu and other licences elsewhere. The lime extracted is used for construction purposes and has not yet been utilised for agricultural or horticultural practices in Fiji. Standard Concrete Industries seeks to diversify its operations into the production and distribution of quality agricultural lime. MDF is working with SCI to first determine potential demand for agricultural lime and then invest in its production and distribution. Because it is a new product in Fiji, significant promotion and educational activities will be needed to spread awareness of the benefits and proper use of lime. Establishing a local supply of agricultural lime will provide a low cost solution for farmers; while also providing farmers with knowledge of the importance of lime to maintain soil structure and fertility. Improved access to and knowledge of agricultural lime can help to improve soil pH, improve yields and increase incomes.