Produce exports to Australia and New Zealand are sluggish but show signs of gradually improving.
This is the comment from Michael Brown, the CEO of the produce farmers’ co-operative, Nature’s Way Co-operative.
“For example, some of our biggest papaya producers were badly hit by the floods in 2012 and Tropical Cyclone Evan last year and are struggling to get back to pre-disaster production levels,” he said.
“We have provided export stimulus packages to assist regrowth and production but life has been quite difficult for the bigger producers.”
Mr Brown said exports of eggplant, papaya and mangoes were sustaining Nature’s Way’s operations although throughput fell far below previous years’ export quotas.
“We used to export 60 tonnes a week and now we are hovering at between 15 to 20 tonnes.
“Last month we exported 85 tonnes of papaya, mangoes for pickles and eggplants, so there is a slow but steady increase as producers are beginning to show signs of recovery from recent natural disasters.”
Papaya, one of the country’s most promising exports, shot from $700,000 in 2010 to $6million the following year.
A bumper crop that was promised for the 2012 season was literally wiped out after floods destroyed about 90 per cent of plants in the Sigatoka Valley, the biggest papaya-producing area in the country.
Nature’s Way, along with government and donor agencies including Bula Agro Enterprises, Taiwan Trade Mission and the Sigatoka Research Station, provided more than 41,000 seedlings to bolster production in the aftermath of the floods.
These, however, were also affected when TC Evan struck in December last year.