Improved fruit production targeted
A new Australian government project, which aims to support expanded fruit production in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, held its first meeting on Monday at the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S.).
Highlighting increasing horticultural regional collaboration, the workshop was attended by senior representatives from the Pacific countries.
According to Professor Steven Underhill, of the University of Queensland, who attended the workshop, the discussion was about finding ways to encourage fruit production.
“Fruit production in the Pacific represents less than 10% of the overall horticultural output, despite favourable climates, increasing market opportunities, and important human health benefits,” he said.
“While there is a lot of research to be undertaken, we recognise the critical importance of the Samoa government and our partners at the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture and the Tonga Ministry of Agriculture.
“This workshop agreed to a series of important steps to better support Pacific fruit farmers, with S.R.O.S. taking on a leadership role in developing and testing new postharvest technologies to better support emerging sea-freight export opportunities in Samoa”.
This new A.C.I.A.R.-funded project will support the development of resilient tropical fruit value chains in Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga; based on the five regionally significant fruit crops: papaya, pineapple, mango, breadfruit, and citrus.
“While S.R.O.S. will lead the development of new postharvest horticultural technologies, we anticipate a strong partnership with our Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, especially around targeted training and capacity building of local extension officers, and primary production activities on pineapples and papaya,” said Tilafono David Hunter, Chief Executive Officer of S.R.O.S.
During the workshop, attendees were briefed on proposed research to increase production and postharvest efficiency of pineapple in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga; research to improve domestic mango production in Fiji, and effort to re-build the Tonga domestic citrus industry.
The workshop attendees were also advised on potentially groundbreaking research that seeks to develop low-grow breadfruit trees that could be more cyclone tolerant and easier to harvest.
Importantly, this initiative has been designed to further support parallel postharvest horticultural research currently funded by F.A.O. that aims to reduce food loss in Samoa and improve farmer profitability.
The training was attended by Losaline Ma’asi, Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries of Tonga, Shalendra Prasad, the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Siosiua Halavatau, Pacific Community (S.P.C.), Tim Martyn U.N.-F.A.O., Professor Steven Underhill, the University of the Sunshine Coast and The University of Queensland, Tilafono David Hunter and Tuimaseve Kuinimeri Finau-Asora, of S.R.O.S.