A PAWPAW shortage in the Western Division has not only affected the export market as local sellers are also feeling the pinch.
Lautoka Municipal Market vendor Lakshmaiya Chetty said selling pawpaws used to put food on the table and previously allowed him to meet obligations but a severe shortage of the fruit has forced him to diversify.
"Before the floods, I used to be able to buy the fruit for $10 a 25-kilogram crate but now the same crate costs me between $80-90. I used to survive just by selling pawpaws alone but now I am forced to sell other vegetables as well," the 62-year-old said.
Meanwhile, exporters are looking to increase next year's crop before export up to pre-flood levels.
Chief executive officer of export produce treatment handlers Nature's Way Cooperative, Michael Brown, said post-flood rehabilitation efforts were progressing well above expectations.
Mr Brown said a Ministry of Primary Industries assessment had reported that 81 acres under pawpaw were completely destroyed during the recent floods in the Nadroga, Navosa and Ba provinces. He added that this was in contrast to 80,930 seedlings which have been supplied to date which represented 161 acres established after the floods — this was almost double the pre-flood plants.
"Our papaya exports to Australia have been reduced to zero following the January and March floods and exports to New Zealand are negligible. However, based on these rehabilitation figures we are optimistic that the export industry will be back to normal in early 2013.
Fiji's papaya exports for 2011 were reported at $6 million a significant increase from $700,000 in 2010.