FLOOD-HIT papaya plantations in the Sigatoka Valley should be back in full production in eight months time and Fiji's slice of the Australian papaya market may not be adversely affected.
This is according to Agriculture permanent secretary Colonel Mason Smith who also said the quality of local fruit combined with floods in Queensland in Australia should see locally grown papayas retain Australian market share once crops returned to pre-flood production.
In an effort to boost post-flood production, the valley that is home to 80 per cent of Fiji's booming papaya trade, is the focus of the Agriculture Department's crop rehabilitation program, he said.
"The papaya export industry was very badly hit, especially in the Nadroga-Navosa area and due to the fact that the industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom, we will be assisting farmers with the provision of 5000 seedlings at the end of the month, with a further 5000 being made available by the Taiwan Trade Mission," Col. Smith said.
"So this effectively means that beginning at the end of the month, we will be distributing 10,000 papaya seedlings every four weeks to growers in the papaya industry," he said.
Last year's exports of 804 tonnes surpassed the 2006 record of 693 tonnes and industry stakeholders are optimistic that 2012 will be a good year despite setbacks from two floods and issues with cargo space after the national carrier Air Pacific reduced wide-body jet flights from seven to three a week beginning January 1.
Principal agricultural officer west Sugrim Chand said in an earlier interview that sea shipments would be used in the interim.