Lucrative papaya industry

A farm worker, checking papaya for colour break. Picture: SUPPLIED

The export of fresh produce earned Fiji about $30million in 2019.

This, according to Fiji’s sole exporter of papaya to Australia. Sunrise Produce managing director Pranil Krishna said the $30m was brought into the country by 10 exporters of fresh produce last year.

He said Fiji needed to capitalise on the advantages it had over other products in the lucrative fresh produce trade.

Mr Krishna said competing in the Australian market was very difficult but the rewards far outweighed the challenges.

“We have to be always on top of our game since we are competing against the Australian papaya as well,” he said.

“Right now, our papaya is not going to the Melbourne market, the Australian papaya takes that market.

“However, most Australians prefer the Fiji red papaya because of its distinct taste.

“The market structure needs to be looked at and streamlined as there is more money in sea freight than in air freight but we have to invest in the right technologies.”

Mr Krishna said Fiji could earn even more from the fresh produce export trade but any growth would need a united and concerted effort by all stakeholders.

“We have the potential to increase that figure, only if all the relevant stakeholders in the agro-export industry share that common dream of growth.”

He said Sunrise Produce had not exported papaya to Australia post TC Harold and had diverted its products to the local market instead.

“Post TC Harold, we have not sent any shipment to Australia.

“Freight charges are high at the moment but when the Australian market opens up, even if the freight charge is $5 per kg, I have no other choice but to export there.

“At present, we are supplying between 500kg and 600kg of papaya weekly to the Suva market, as our production was hit hard post TC Harold.”

Mr Krishna said he buys papaya from at least 20 registered bilateral quarantine agreement (BQA) farmers and also had a 10-acre farm of Fiji red papaya.

“TC Harold damaged 80 per cent of my own farm produce, I used to send about two tonnes of papaya weekly to Australia.

“These are hard times for everyone in the country but we have to keep the market rolling, we have to work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Biosecurity Authority of Fiji and we also appreciate the help that has come from the New Zealand and Australian governments.”

Mr Krishna said while the Agriculture Ministry, under the guidance of Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy, was trying to bolster agriculture production through the home garden and free-seed programs, the answer to boosting export yield and production lay in bringing every stakeholder to one table.

“The Agriculture Ministry, firstly, has to look at the export structure that is in place.

“We have to bring in all the key players in the export industry together.

“The freight companies, seed nursery operators, farmers, exporters, Biosecurity Authority of Fiji, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature’s Way Cooperative.

“We need a robust structure on which the farmers and exporters can develop.”

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