The way forward to improving the quality and exports of Fijian taro is now clearer with the availability of a new Fiji Dalo Quality Manual which was launched last week at Navatukia Village in Serea, Naitasiri as part of a workshop organized by the Ministry of Agriculture for taro growers and exporters.
The manual has been developed by the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with taro industry stakeholders including growers and traders, and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program, an Australian Government initiative co-funded by the New Zealand Government.
The workshop and launch of the Taro Quality Manual was held in the interior of Naitasiri in recognition of the hardworking farmers and communities producing taro in the area for local and exports markets.
With approximately 37,000 taro farms around the country, Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, David Kolitagane while launching the manual, highlighted to dalo farmers the importance of the Fiji Dalo Quality Manual in assisting the majority of the taro farms around the country.
“Agriculture has played a pivotal role in our national building, our growth, and economic stability. We are talking about food security, from farmers to commercial productions onward to export markets.
“In Fiji, dalo is the largest agricultural export apart from sugar and the annual dalo export volumes for these past years has been around 7,000 tonnes and I think we can double this in the next 5 years and the dalo quality manual is available to help us achieve these targets,” PS Kolitagane said.
“This manual stands as a proof of our commitment in helping our dalo stakeholders and farmers, both subsistence and commercial, to achieve higher targets and improve our production levels,” he said.
“It has discarded a whole range of issues and related challenges and supported programs to build and strengthen our dalo industry and I encourage you to actively participate in the training and in the sharing of knowledge of our manual.”
Fiji exports 60% of its dalo to New Zealand, Australia and the United States of America raking in a value of around FJ$20-24million.
“The Fijian Government has taken strides in trying to modernize the agriculture sector, to help expand our dalo export and production domestically and for our export markets.
“We are providing support equivalent to $3-4million annually for our dalo farmers; please make sure we utilize this resource efficiently and effectively and we will ensure through our extension services that this funding will help our dalo farmers,” added PS Kolitagane.
Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Deputy Team Leader Dr. Brownie Wiseman said the program is looking forward to supporting and developing the dalo industry.
“The PHAMA program has been here in Fiji working to grow the dalo industry and the agriculture sector and other exports and it’s a very satisfying time to be here today after all these years with this new manual looking ahead at areas to grow the dalo industry,” Dr. Wiseman said.
Farmers from across the main taro producing areas of Kadavu, Gau, Koro, the interior of Ra, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and the interior of Tailevu and Naitasiri attended the workshop and the launch of Fiji Dalo Quality Manual.
The dalo farmers also raised issues they faced during an informal discussion session held following the launch with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and attending stakeholders such as dalo exporters, Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF), the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Fiji Crop and Livestock Council (FCLC).
The development of the taro manual follows the successful production and launch of the Fiji Kava Quality Manual early last year.