FARMERS living along the Nadi-Rakiraki corridor are being encouraged to expand into fruit and vegetable farming to meet the growing demand from the lucrative Australian market.
Nature's Way Cooperative Ltd CEO Michael Brown said a three-year extension program was established last year to increase production and drive exports.
"The extension program officially began in July using existing contractors, Kyle Stice and Livai Tora, as well as a newly-recruited junior field officer Ronal Chand," he said.
"The program is primarily focused on expanding production of high temperature forced air (HTFA) products outside of the Sigatoka Valley to the Nadi-Rakiraki corridor."
Mr Brown said baseline data collection had already taken place in regard to the contribution of this region and specific production targets had been set.
"Central to the extension approach is collaboration with exporters, Ministry of Primary Industries and other extension stakeholders.
"Several meetings have taken place to kick-start the process and it is anticipated the three-year project could see the formation of eight cluster groups with 80 new growers of the HTFA commodities namely papaya, egg-plants, breadfruit and mango.
"An anticipated production of an additional 1000 tonnes of export commodities should be realised by the end of 2016."
The extension program is funded by New Zealand and Australian aid.