Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry says he is appalled at the mischievous and highly selective reporting by Fiji TV of his ad on food prices.
In its main news report aired on Wednesday evening Fiji TV said that in an advertisement placed in the local papers two weeks ago, Mr Chaudhry had merely asked people to grow more food and had provided no other solution to the current crisis caused by rising food prices.
“This is what we mean when we claim that certain media organisations doctor news to suit their particular political agenda,” Mr Chaudhry said.
My newspaper advertisement emphasised three main points. One, it explained to the people that rising food prices was a worldwide phenomenon and not something confined to Fiji.
Secondly, that there was no short term answer to this global problem and that Fiji will have to start growing as much of its food requirements as possible. I urged all people with land to grow some vegetables and root crops in their backyards for their home consumption.
I see nothing wrong with this advice. Indeed, although The Fiji Times had criticised me for saying this, it carries a similar message in its editorial comment today.
Thirdly, I clearly underscored the fact that government was closely monitoring the food situation and would take measures as necessary to alleviate hardship to the poor.
I also gave an assurance that Government has, and will do all it can, including reducing duty on imported staples, to soften the impact of the hardship on the poor.
A fair and balanced reporting of my statement would have included all these three points.
I am pleased that as per this assurance, government has now taken several measures to soften the impact of this global crisis on our people.
But this is only a short term measure. Fiji will have to become increasingly more self-sufficient and self-reliant on its food needs. In fact, this is the focus of Budget 2008: to enhance agricultural production and promote rural development.