Associate Professor Mohammed Umar, Head of SAFT, Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor and President and Professor Satish Chandra of ISTRC (in garland) with participants of Symposium in Nadi.
The Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific (USP), Professor Rajesh Chandra officially opened the first Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops, Pacific Branch on 24 April 2018, at the Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi, Fiji.
Themed at “Improving Root and Tuber Crops in the South Pacific Region”, the Symposium saw participants from Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Federated States of Micronesia, Pacific Community (SPC) and Australia.
In March 2012, with the support of Professor Chandra, the Pacific Branch of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops was established which complemented teaching and research in agriculture undertaken in the Pacific Region by the University, the Ministries of Agriculture and agricultural institutions.
Professor Chandra said that it is particularly fitting that the Symposium is being held this year which also marks the 50th Anniversary of USP, adding that throughout its history the teaching of agriculture, and undertaking agricultural research and extension work, has been an important function of the University through its School of Agriculture and Food Technology (SAFT) at the Alafua Campus in Samoa.
Talking about the theme, he said that improving root and tuber crops in the South Pacific Region poses many challenges and opportunities and the Symposium provides a sound platform for discussion and debate of these challenges and opportunities.
“Some of the critical issues confronting us as Pacific islanders are improving food and nutrition security, reducing poverty, improving incomes, and countering the impacts of climate change. The root and tuber crops provide an avenue to assist us in facing these challenges,” Professor Chandra said.
He informed the participants that SAFT now has established a food technology lab and a food technologist appointed to work on developing a number of products from root crops for commercial production.
He further mentioned that in addition to the Symposium, participants needed to think ahead and continue to seek funding from various funding institutions whose mandate is to support agriculture in the South Pacific Region.
“We need to work together as the key issues in improving root and tuber crops are the same in all South Pacific Island Countries,” he said.
One of the shortcomings of those who are involved in this kind of research, Professor Chandra said, is that there is not enough work being done in the economic analysis area, for instance, in cost of production, market competitiveness, product innovation, increasing consumer attraction with better packaging, greater shelf life, or easier preparation.
He added that there is a need to explicitly introduce production and consumption economics and innovation in the discussion.
The Vice-Chancellor and President thanked Professor Satish Chandra, Councillor for the South Pacific International Society for Tropical Root Crops and Mr Mohammed Umar, the President of the Pacific Branch for working together closely for the past six (6) years on important issues on root and tuber crops in the region.
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