The Solomon Islands Rice Import Bill will be expected to exceed the two-hundred million dollar mark by the end of 2008 - the highest ever.

This was revealed by the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Hon. Selwyn Riumana, in Parliament.

Although figures are not yet available, Hon. Riumana stated that the expenses for the first half of the year will be substantial with the price increases felt at the beginning of the year.

Mr Riumana said the increase in population resulted in the increased volume of imports therefore the country must now take steps to reduce heavy reliance on rice importation.

In response the Government has taken the first serious step, by allocating $27m for rice production development in the Solomon Islands.

According to Hon.Riumana, full scale commercial farming and rural commercial rice farming are encouraged by the Government and for this to happen there is the need for more than one hundred hectares of land, for the project to be jointly implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Taiwanese Technical mission.

Mr Riumana concludes that rural commercial rice farming will see the engagement of Solomon Islands communities where support will be provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, through the provision of farming equipment.