FIJI can now export fresh pineapples to New Zealand with the development of a pineapple export pathway by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA) in conjunction with the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) and the Department of Agriculture (DOA).
The PHAMA program is a new trade facilitation program by AusAID to assist the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) to address market access issues.
Turners and Growers (Fiji) Ltd (T&G) also was part of the pathway development in opening the pineapple trade between New Zealand and Fiji.
The first test shipment of 55kg fresh Ripley Queen variety was exported to New Zealand by T&G on June 8.
T&G export manager Alika Cooper said the T&G team in New Zealand was very pleased as the product arrived fresh and was of good quality.
"We have been pushing for the pathway to be opened and we are quite happy that we are able to export pineapple now," said Mr Cooper.
Mr Cooper added T&G was working on building a weekly shipment of around one tonne of fresh pineapples to New Zealand.
"At the moment, their are three registered farmers in the Western Division and their farms are well maintained and have some pineapples on the ground," added Mr Cooper.
"Farmers who want to grow pineapples for export need to focus on quality and consistency with production and work closely with the agriculture officers to ensure field hygiene. They need to have a good relationship with the exporters and follow the correct requirements under the Bilateral Quarantine Agreement (BQA) for pineapple," said Mr Cooper.
Mr Cooper said T&G was hoping to build a market for Fiji pineapple focusing on Ripley Queen variety because this variety was very sweet and could possibly become a niche market product.
"T&G is currently working with major supermarkets in New Zealand to secure shelf space for Fiji pineapples," Mr Cooper said.
"We envisage that Fiji pineapples will be well liked by New Zealand consumers due to its sweet taste.
"We have invested quite a lot of time and money into pineapple exports and we are hoping that this new export product line will develop into an industry that will not only benefit our farmers and local export figures but also put Fiji on the map for pineapple."
According to the figures released by the Economic Planning & Statistics Division of the DOA, Fiji exported 130kg of pineapple juice to New Zealand in 2008.
Fiji has been exporting pineapple juice to Australia, Tuvalu and Wallis and Futuna, processed pineapples to Samoa and Tuvalu and fresh and dried pineapples to Canada.
Fiji National Market Access co-ordinator for PHAMA Losalini Leweniqila said the pathway was to confirm the components in the export system specifically for the export of the three varieties of pineapple — Ripley Queen, Smooth Cayenne and Veimama from Fiji to New Zealand.
"Pineapples should be harvested at mature green stage for export to New Zealand from BQA registered farms where plants have been sprayed and proper field agronomic/sanitation procedures have been implemented," she said.
"Growers must follow good agricultural practices recommended by DOA extension who will regularly visit the pineapple farms to check compliance and ensure that the only three approved varieties are grown," said Ms Leweniqila.
* Riteshni Singh is with the Ministry of Primary Industries.