Fiji eyes increased produce exports with new irradiation facility

April 21 , 2017

Fiji is seeking to boost its fruit and vegetable exports and has presented a proposal for assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to support food irradiation. 

IAEA recently carried out an assistance mission to assess the scope of the protect and collect necessary information from national authorities.

The mission was composed of IAEA staff, an expert in radiation technologies, and a specialist in quality infrastructure and value chains provided by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The entity said Fiji’s produce exports like okra, papaya, breadfruit, mango, eggplant and chili were hindered by the presence of different species of fruit fly.

To reduce the impact of insect pests, the country has been treating export products with High Temperature Forced Air (HTFA).

Although an HTFA plant to treat fruit and vegetables was built in 1995 at Fiji’s International Airport in Nadi, it has only provided a partial solution to the problem, as it cannot eliminate all the types of flies that affect Fiji’s fruits and vegetables.

To close the gap regarding safe fruit and vegetable exports, and in line with Fiji’s Trade Policy Framework, the Fijian Government has decided to introduce irradiation to address the insect pest challenges facing the country’s exports.

“In helping Fiji to introduce food irradiation to its economy, the IAEA’s TC [technical cooperation] programme will contribute to the fulfilment of Fiji’s Trade Policy Framework and thus to the government’s vision of a Better Fiji for All,” Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyas Siddiq Koya said. 

He noted the underlying motivation was to develop Fiji into a vibrant, dynamic and international competitive economy, serving as a hub of the Pacific.  

Biosecurity Authority of Fiji CEO Hillary Kumwenda, who is leading the development of the new TC project, explained the current plant could treat a maximum of 3,000 metric tons (MT) of produce annually.

“However, Fiji has capacity to significantly increase its exports, if a new technology such as food irradiation is introduced,” he said.

This would especially benefit the 250 growers and 15 exporters of fruits and vegetables in the country, who are exclusively small farmers with an average of 2 to 4 hectares each.

Photo: IAEA

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