Boosting regional food quality and supplies


In a first for Fiji and the South Pacific, a new vegetable research project has been launched to identify strategies to strengthen food production and manufacture in the region.<!--more-->
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Australian researchers for the Pacific Agricultural Research for Development (PARDI) initiative, coordinated by the University of Queensland (UQ), are leading the team conducting the research, which is being carried out in partnership with the Fijian Government and local industry.

Fiji has moved to boost local vegetable production and ultimately improve food security in the region following escalating food imports and a decline in local farming.

The new vegetable research initiative was kick-started in mid-2012 during a two-day hands-on workshop, hosted by the Fiji Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) Sigatoka Research Station.

Industry participants, from growers through to hoteliers and policy makers, were given the opportunity to gain insight into each others’ activities and review how they operate as members of the "vegetable production chain".

The project aims to establish participatory guarantee systems (PGS) across Fiji to enable industry to work cooperatively to produce quality, reliable supplies of vegetables.

PGS operates on the principle that knowledge and coordinated effort is power. PGS is focused on organic production to overcome third party certification constraints

As part of the PARDI PGS vegetable project, one of the first activities will be to look into post-harvest losses. Recent studies conducted by PARDI showed that tomato losses post-harvest are as high as 58 per cent, which is a similar figure for eggplant and ball cabbage. According to PARDI project leader, Jennifer Carter, PGS has the capacity to reduce losses, improve grower returns and increase the quality of the final produce.

PARDI, which began in February 2010, is coordinated by the University of Queensland and funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). PARDI seeks to create sustainable livelihood development outcomes for the South Pacific forestry, fisheries and crop-based sectors. Scientists undertake supply-chain and market-driven research to identify constraints that impede local economic development. Research is aimed at achieving tangible solutions, such as new skills for locals, new technologies and product options.