Agribusiness Masterclass

Agribusinesses are being subjected to changes on multiple fronts including shifting consumer food preferences and preferences for ‘clean-label’ products through to sustained low commodity prices for farmers.

At the conclusion of the ACIAR PARDI2 Agribusiness Masterclass held in Nadi last week, local and international agribusiness experts  revealed that these trends will have a profound influence how food is produced in the future, including in the Pacific Islands.

Western division official for the Ministry Trade and Tourism, Ms Rusieli Mua said local consumers were particularly interested in to know where the honey for sale was being produced. ‘There’s potential to explore this in further detail and from a marketing angle; we found that tourists were attracted to the packaging of small sized bottles which allows a much greater price per kilogram return,’ she said.

She also highlighted the possible co-relation between the different and little-known locations within retail stores that maybe directly linked to sales. ‘We found that the better positioned a honey product is on supermarket shelves then the better its sales performance; it’s a natural product and normally positioned amongst the fresh foods aisle if not directly across from it with various bread spreads. Including merchandising effort, there needs to be some form of communication with retailers in the best possible strategic location for honey which could lead to a significant rise in sales,’ she said.

Research and Extension Officer for Nature’s Way Co-operative, Timote Waqainabete said there was an opportunity for new income stream from current seconds Fiji Red Papaya which are mainly just given away if not exported to Australian and New Zealand markets.

‘In our initial scoping, desktop analysis and key informant qualitative interviews, we’ve discovered a lucrative market for papaya seed oil in the cosmetics industry. In 2017, global markets reported US$148 million in earnings with US$245 million expected in earnings in 2023. We’ve had a few phone calls between local and Australian cosmetic companies that’s generated some real interest and we’re looking to explore this further and provide samples,’ he said. He added there were also options to diversify revenue and supply the market with dried seeds and fresh seeds. Nature’s Way Co-operative has membership of most of the Fiji Red Papaya farmers and the Papaya exporters.

The General Manager for Fiji Kava Limited, Mr Sanfred Smith said the sector has a strong local demand and significant potential growth particularly into export markets in USA, China and Australasia.

‘Kava sales in Fiji recently reached $320 million dollars of which 92% of it is made from domestic sales; what we’re seeing is that our farmers are struggling to find good quality propagation materials. We’re also seeing how the strong demand for kava in our local markets is not only influencing price but leading to mass plantings of any available variety. There is little thought being given to who they are going to sell to which can also sometimes make quality certification difficult,’ he said. These trends touched every part of the kava value chain, including growers, input suppliers/distributors processors and investors which Sanfred said was relevant to understand in terms of producing and meeting the growing demand for Kava.

Research Assistant for Pacific Agribusiness Research in Development Initiative – Phase 2, Ms Patricia Bibi said the biggest opportunity  for AgriTourism is to influence government policy so it can cover agritourism land use. ‘At the moment, land use can only be classified as either Agricutlural or Tourism and the tourist licenses have been set up for the larger resorts and involve a quite detailed, lengthy and very costly process unsuited to village based applications,’ she said.

With Australians and New Zealanders accounting for 36% and 14% of Fiji visitors, respectively, she explained there was an opportunity to explore and develop local organic and ethical foods, gastronomy tours, home cooking and cooking lessons, hands-on interactive production tours, festivals and events around local produce, handcraft processing tours, floriculture including nature-based tourism including bird watching, plant identification and medicinal plant tours. ‘They’re young and between the ages of 25-35, looking for local and authentic experiences that are unique to Fiji and there’s lots to show and appreciate in terms of our natural resources and culture that you won’t find anywhere else in the world but Fiji,’ Patricia said.

The Director of Forest Resource Assessment and Conservation of the Ministry of Forestry, Ms Deborah Sue said that she and her colleague Mr Maleli Nakasava were able to collaborate well across the four themes of the Agribusiness Masterclass  (Honey, Papaya, Kava and Agritourism) with industry insiders to provide insights into Forestry’s 4-million tree policy and tree selection process while offering some practical activities and solutions to the four themes. 

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