Friday, June 16 2017
Farmers, exporters and Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) extension officers are undergoing training to improve the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables being exported to New Zealand.
The training is being organised and funded by the Australian and New Zealand-funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program in partnership with MoA and the Pacific Community (SPC).
At a Fresh Produce Forum organised by Fiji’s High Commission in New Zealand in October last year, a range of steps were identified by exporters, importers and government representatives to improve export volumes and profits to New Zealand. Based on the outcomes of the forum, MoA – through the Fiji Market Access Working Group – sought PHAMA’s support to provide relevant training for farmers, exporters and MoA extension officers. The training is among several solutions identified to maintain and protect Fiji’s fruit and vegetable exports which are valued at FJ$24 million (AUD$15.3m) per year.
There are two key objectives of the training. Firstly, it is aimed at raising the awareness of farmers, exporters and extension officers as to the biosecurity and quality requirements that need to meet in order to export to New Zealand. Secondly, the training will increase the capacity of farmers, exporters and extension officers to identify and manage major pests commonly intercepted on fresh produce exports.
The first phase of the training is on pest identification and management, and is being held in various locations around Viti Levu from June 12 – 27. Training commenced in Naceva, Lower Sigatoka Valley on Monday and involves day-long sessions comprising half a day of “classroom” learning and half a day of practical lessons. A series of guidebooks is also being developed.
PHAMA’s National Coordinator in Fiji, Losalini Leweniqila, said, “All stakeholders along the export pathway need to understand their responsibilities and the importance of complying with New Zealand’s import requirements. This training is targeting the farmer who is already registered with the Ministry to export, as it is with him or her that the measure of quality is established. The PHAMA Program is committed to helping Fiji meet the import requirements of overseas markets.”
MoA’s Principal Research Officer, Horticulture, Shalendra Prasad encouraged farmers to make the most of the training, saying the certificates awarded at the end of the day are proof of their participation in the training and can be used during audits.
Participants in Sigatoka have lauded the training and asked that such training be held more often. One farmer remarked that it was the first training where they’d been given books to complement the training, and help them understand export pathway requirements.
Additional training sessions will be held in Nadi, Ba, Rakiraki and Nausori in the coming months and cover crop production and management, and post-harvest handling.
For further information, contact Losalini Leweniqila at email@example.com or on +679 995 7593