Senior journalists from Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu were excited about the trade potential of the Pacific agricultural sector during a visit to a root crop processing factory in Navua, Fiji last month.
The visit was organized by the Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade Project as part of the program for media delegates attending the Pacific Islands News Association's bi-annual summit in Pacific Harbor. The root crop processing factory is owned by Kaiming Agro Processing Ltd., a leading exporter of manioc, taro, and value-added ginger products. En route, the journalists visited a small, community farm that grows and supplies root crops to KAPL.
The journalists were given a tour of the ginger processing line by the company's visionary and dynamic director Calvin Qiu, and then treated to a range of baked goods such as biscuits and muffins made with the company's export quality ginger products. The tour was an opportunity for the media representatives to see the link between smallholder farms and agricultural processing firms such as KAPL, as well as the role each plays in regional trade, and how donors such as the EU can successfully link Pacific Island economies to the global economy.
Leone Cabenatabua, general manager of the Fiji Sun newspaper, said: “It is a really big incentive for the farmers because they don't have to go far to look for markets. It would be a huge plus if we could do the same sort of thing in other parts of the country.”
The field trip broadened the journalists' view of simple agricultural commodities such as ginger, which, prior to the tour, they had viewed as a cash crop with limited use. In Fiji, ginger is predominantly bought by the local Indian and Chinese communities for use in cooking. At KAPL, however, the journalists were shown the export potential of this everyday agricultural crop. KAPL is making a range of value-added ginger products, including brine ginger, ginger in syrup and crystalline ginger, and is looking to increase its export range with ginger powder and fresh ginger (once market access to Australia is achieved).
Of the field trip, Pili Tovega Asiata, a reporter with TV1 in Samoa said: “It was an eye opener for us in the Pacific. We can create more opportunities for our people to create livelihoods rather than rely on imported products.”
Based in Fiji, the FACT Project (which will conclude at the end of 2012) works to increase exports of agriculture and forestry products from 14 Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. (SPC)