Solomon Islands have recorded a total rice import worth $200 million in 2008 alone to feed the country's more than 500,000 population.

This is an increase of $31.2 million from a total of $168.8 million dollars of rice imports last year.

The figures has prompted the present government to aggressively embark on a major National Rice Development Program earlier this year which saw it's first harvest yesterday at Saint Joseph's Tenaru school farm.

Speaking at the harvest ceremony, Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development Selwyn Riumana said the school's rice project is funded under the National Rice Program to ensure food security at all levels.

The Government had funded a total of $343,065.00 worth of farm equipment to enable the project get off the ground earlier this year.

Minister Riumana acknowledged the fine achievement and sweat equity rendered to the project, especially those responsible for the project's implementation.

The Minister promised further close working partnership with the school in developing its rice farming activities by way of technical and financial support in future.

He said rice is becoming a very important commodity to Solomon Islands since most people turn to rice as staple food.

Minister Riumana said when rice is politicized by bigger countries; prices in local shops put the majority of Solomon Islanders at a critically disadvantaged situation.

"Unfortunately, rice is one of the most political crop today and no donor would support rice production in the country because Solomon Islands is being used as the market destiny for rice," he said.

Minister Riumana said the Government will continue to assist farmers to cultivate their own rice.

"Solomon Islands has the ideal climatic conditions for rice cultivation and there is no reason why we should not grow rice,"

He referred to the success of the Tenaru rice project as a manifestation of the ideal climate in the country together with close working partnership between farmers and the government.

Press Release (Government Communications Unit)