PT&I works with islands to revive traditional produce exports


During the past quarter, the <strong>Pacific Islands Trade &amp; Invest</strong> (PT&amp;I) Auckland Office has been working with two island countries on the revival of their traditional export commodities that once used to dominate the New Zealand fresh produce market – taro from Samoa and pawpaw from the Cook Islands.<!--more-->

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In the Cook Islands, PT&amp;I has been in discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture about the situation of the country’s pawpaw industry. An extensive pawpaw-planting programme by local growers was under way earlier this year supported by the Cook Islands government through the Ministry of Agriculture.

But exports to New Zealand were hampered by problems related to the re-certification of the High Temperature Forced Air (HTFA) plant. The HTFA plant recently failed to qualify after the commercial audit. This meant there was an over-supply of the pawpaw on the local market. However, this was easily absorbed as it coincided with the peak of the year’s tourist arrivals.

The Ministry of Agriculture is currently in the process of developing an effective supply chain system to ensure the pawpaw move through the chain without any hiccups. It is ensuring the farmers plant enough to maintain supply. According to Dr Matairangi Purea, Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, “We want to ensure that the supply chain is not fragmented on the way, and important to us is the farmers get a fair price on their pawpaw.”

He said they are developing in partnership with the BTIB (Business Trade &amp; Investment Bureau) clear policy guidelines to ensure the pawpaw move through the system smoothly. There are still discussions in place whether to privatise the HTFA plant. There will be discussions on the payment system to the farmers and a system most favoured is that the farmers get paid their pawpaws at the farm gate upon delivery of their produce for export.

BTIB’s Finance Manager has also completed some research on the cost components of getting the pawpaw into the NZ market and has a fair idea as to what will be a good return for the grower. The Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture realises the need to get the structures right and in place to ensure an efficient supply chain is in place for the pawpaw.

Meanwhile, PT&amp;I Auckland office is helping Cook Islands pawpaw exporters re-establish markets in what was once a lucrative market for the fruit. The decline in availability of pawpaw from the Cook Islands has resulted in pawpaw from other countries like the Philippines fill in the gap.