INDIA, which is the largest democratic country in the world, has been a development assistance partner of Fiji for some time.

Apart from providing scholarships to Fijian students and assisting in the medical field, India has also been giving assistance in other areas.

But now, a visit to the world's largest democracy by the Agriculture Minister, Inia Seruiratu, and other officials has opened up doors for developments in the agricultural field.

While his visit has resulted in some major decisions being made by Indian companies, of interest is the decision to improve the coconut sector in Fiji.

The Fiji High Commission in New Delhi reported that Mr Seruiratu and the Fiji delegation met with the Coconut Development Board chairman T K Jose and senior officials at the CDB headquarters in Kochin, India.

The meeting highlighted a few issues, which includes Fiji's need to consider improving coconut productivity.

According to the High Commission, India's coconut export earning in 2013 was around $US440million.

"India's success is based on its genetic approach to coconut production and process coupled with continued government support to the industry," said Mr Jose.

He said value addition was an important area that Fiji needed to pursue and to be recognised.

The Fiji delegation also toured a coconut museum displaying all coconut by-products.

In a statement from the Fiji High Commission yesterday, Mr Seruiratu said Fiji and India would soon enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue technology transfer between the two countries, especially in the coconut sector.

"During the visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we had expressed our interest into an MoU with specific agencies within the government of India as we intend to pursue agriculture-related issues, particularly seed development, training and exchange of technical expertise," he said.

The Fiji delegation also visited a crab and prawn farming area in Kerala, which has fascinating traditional farming methods and practices.

Mr Seruiratu and his team of Fijian officials are in Kochin for the 51st Ministerial Meeting/Session of the Asian and Pacific Community, which started yesterday and ends on Friday.

Last week, the Fiji delegation also visited Ayurvet Ltd, which is a leading Indian animal health care company.

During his visit to the company, Mr Seruiratu raised the need for Fiji to access Ayurvet's services and technology and to learn from their model and best practices.

He pointed out that Fiji's agriculture sector would benefit from close co-operation with the company in capacity building and training on animal feed plant, animal husbandry and animal health care.

The Agriculture Minister also said Fiji was keen to learn from the company's model of sustainable livelihood, especially on the 5 Fs — feed, food, fodder, fertiliser and fuel.

A Department of Information statement said that in response, Ayurvet agreed to assist Fiji and provide training, technology advice and assistance.

Based in Haryana, the Ayurvet Ltd portfolio includes the production of food, feed, fodder, fertiliser and fuel through hydroponics and the company uses an integrated model of sustainability and livelihood for production.

Mr Seruiratu's visit to the India National Seed Corporation has also resulted in the company agreeing to provide training and consultancy work for farmers and staff at the Agriculture Ministry.

During talks with senior officials of NSC, Mr Seruiratu requested assistance and support from the company on seed production.

He highlighted challenges faced by Fiji's agriculture sector and pointed out the need to explore new seed varieties, seed genetics and seed breeders.

In return, NSC agreed to assist the Agriculture Ministry by providing seed experts and consultants to provide training to Fijian farmers and the ministry's staff.

The NSC will also assist in the development of seed system, matching system and varietal release system.

It (NSC) is a part of India's Agriculture Ministry and was established for the development of seed research, seed infrastructure, seed production, seed multiplication, seed marketing and seed distribution to farmers.

A memorandum of understanding on the Ayurvet and NSC assistance programs would be facilitated through the Fiji High Commission in New Delhi, India's Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian High Commission in Fiji and Agriculture Ministry in both countries.

The Indian Government has also been providing assistance to Fiji as far as tertiary health care services are concerned.

Following an agreement signed with Fiji's Health Ministry in 2012, Sayhadri Hospitals from India started providing tertiary health care services in Fiji.

In accordance with the agreement, the hospital provides medical teams and equipment for surgeries while the Health Ministry provides the infrastructure and other support.

During his visit to Fiji in November last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced a $75m line of credit to Fiji for the co-generation power plant at Rarawai in Ba.

Mr Modi also announced a grant of $US5m (about $F10m) for the development of small micro-enterprises in villages in the country.

He also announced visa-free travel to India for Fijians, and an increase in scholarships for Fijian students wishing to study in India.

With India opening its doors and showing the willingness to provide assistance in all sectors, Fiji surely has a lot to gain.

The recent agreements reached as part of Mr Seruiratu's visit to India will no doubt improve the Fijian agriculture sector.