IN a bid to ensure that papaya plantations are not affected by flooding stakeholders have focused on assisting the development of non-flood-prone areas in the upper Sigatoka Valley.
The initiative comes in the wake of a sharp decline in exports to the Australian market and in light of the fact that exports to New Zealand have been reduced by close to 50 per cent.
Nature's Way Co-operative (NWC) Limited, the company that prepares and treats fruit and produce for export, said about 90 per cent of papaya plants situated in the valley were devastated and as a result exports were in steep decline.
However, NWC chief executive officer Michael Finau Brown said initiatives put in place by the co-operative and government should see exports bounce back next year.
Mr Brown said one of the immediate strategies was a focus on providing extension services to members in the upper Sigatoka Valley areas where floods would most likely not affect crops, particularly around Keiyasi, Tuberata, Naviago, and Toga villages.
"The floods in January had a huge impact on plantations and just as rehabilitation programs were beginning to be implemented, they were hit again in March and April and this has heavily reduced exports of papaya. In comparison in 2011 we exported a total of 112 tonnes to New Zealand and 674 tonnes to Australia while this year we have so far exported 70.6 tonnes to New Zealand and 36.9 tonnes to Australia," he said.
Fiji's papaya industry has seen a huge increase in exports from $700,000 in 2010 to $6 million last year and figures were expected to increase even further this year as the demand for Fiji fruit increased.