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relationships with research organisations
brokered by ACIAR. Prime issues were how best
to stall ripening during the longer sea route and
the need for cartons that protect the fruit while
Technical partners participating in the project
include the Secretariat of the Pacific Community,
the Queensland Department of Employment,
Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI)
and Fiji-based agribusiness firm Koko Siga Fiji.
Within Fiji, the Nature's Way Cooperative
and Fiji's largest grower and exporter of
papaya, Produce Specialities Ltd, were leading
participants, while Koko Siga Fiji's Kyle Stice
coordinated the project's various activities.
"While research and extension is not the
core business of Nature's Way, they have an
interest in ensuring a good supply of high-
quality fruit," Mr Stice says. "So the company
works with farmers and exporters to solve
production and marketing issues.
"They approached ACIAR with a proposal
to use applied research to solve some of
the technical aspects Fiji faces accessing
international markets, from the farm through to
postharvest handling and freighting."
The papaya industry, while small in scale, is
starting to play an increasingly important role in
Fiji's economy. High-value crops are increasingly
pursued to diversify agriculture following the
loss of preferential sugarcane prices from the
European Union. Papaya has been identified as
one such crop.
"Traditionally the type of work undertaken
by the ACIAR project would be done through
the Ministry of Agriculture Research and
Extension divisions," Mr Stice says. "But because
the Ministry is required to serve a whole range
of producers, spread across the country, the
industry-based partners have the opportunity
to be commodity-specific and work directly
with industry champions."
Prime among these industry collaborators is
Produce Specialities Ltd. It is the largest exporter
and producer of Sunrise Solo Papayas, which
are grown at its Sigatoka farm on the island of
Viti Levu. Its produce is sold in New Zealand,
Australia, Japan and, more recently, Hong Kong.
Produce Specialities Ltd was selected
as the exporter for the sea-freight trial to
Auckland in early 2011 and contributed fruit,
cartons and packing material for the 6.5-
tonne trial shipment. The Fiji Papaya Project
covered freight costs and provided technical
support and monitoring equipment, including
assessments in New Zealand.
"Aside from the technical treatments, the trial
also let us test market uptake of Fijian papaya,"
Mr Stice says. "Up to this stage, Fiji air-freighted
about 700 cartons per week to New Zealand.
But with sea-freight it was 1300 cartons in a
single week. So we got the chance to look at
how much Fiji Red papaya the market can take
in any given week."
The trial proved a commercial success. A
cooling treatment was identified to arrest the
ripening process in transit, a major project aim.
In New Zealand, the project worked closely
with the importer, Fresh Direct, which ran
in-store promotions for Fijian papayas and sold
the entire trial container in one week.
Comparisons found that the transport cost
per carton was FJD$3.25 by sea, compared with
FJD$5.98 for air-freight.
"The trial also identified several issues
requiring further research, including the strength
of the cartons," Mr Stice says. "When used in air-
freight, the cartons are stacked seven or eight
high, but that was raised to 12 high in the sea-
freight and some crushing occurred."
The Fiji Papaya Project is now working with
local carton manufacturers in the design of a
more appropriate sea-freight carton that allows
for cooling in transit and ripening once the fruit
is at its destination.
"We believe once we have overcome the
issue of an appropriate carton and a few other
minor logistical constraints at the packing
facility, the exporter will commence with regular
sea freighting into New Zealand," Mr Stice says.
At ACIAR, Dr Markham thinks that sea
freight can make a major contribution to
keeping Fiji's papaya industry competitive in
Analysis indicates that increasing exports
from the 2008 level of 600 tonnes to 4000
tonnes could result in an increase of about FJD$7
million in export earning and FJD$3.5 million in
direct farm income. A larger production base is
also expected to benefit local markets, increase
employment, and create opportunities to
develop value-added processing industries.
"Whether this specific target is achieved or
not, the biggest contribution of the project may
be to show how one of Fiji's key export industries
can raise standards and compete successfully in
international markets," Dr Markham says.
"This successful private--public partnership
could serve as a model for other fruits and
vegetables and help to raise standards and
expectations across the board."
In Australia, the papaya industry has not
achieved its full potential due to high losses in
the supermarket system and inconsistency of
product flavour and fruit-ripening behaviour.
Results from the supply-chain components
of the Fiji Papaya Project and parallel research
funded by ACIAR in Queensland are also
expected to benefit Australian farmers. n
PARTNER COUNTRY FIJI
PROJECT: PC/2008/003 Strengthening the Fiji
papaya industry through applied research and
CONTACT: Kyle Stice, email@example.com;
Dr Richard Markham,
Papayas packed in foam and stickered, ready to go.
After two-and-a-half days in the ripening room, the
fruit is almost full colour and ready for distribution.
Preliminary observations in the carton performance
trial indicate that papaya in the cartons with holes
(right) did not ripen in transit, while those in the
standard cartons (left) did.
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