New disease resistant and tolerant varieties of taro and kumala were released at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Koronivia Research Station.
The newly released taro leaf blight tolerant varieties known as “Tarova Loa” and “Tarova Vula” along with the new kumala variety named “Golden Brown” was made available through collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, the Pacific Community (SPC) – Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Treaty Benefit Sharing Project in the Pacific and Australian Aid.
Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services, Inia Seruiratu said the release of these varieties created a new pathway of plans to protect the taro industry from leaf blight disease.
“Releasing these taro leaf blight tolerant varieties to our farmers will ensure improved dalo resilience to this devastating taro disease that is present in the Pacific Island Countries such as Hawaii, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Guam, Northern Marianas and Samoa,” said Seruiratu.
With Fiji currently exporting taro to lucrative markets such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United States and Hawaii, Minister Seruiratu stated taro was one of the most important crops in Fiji in terms of food and income security to farmers and had been one of the major export commodities over the years with a total production gross value of $120million with export earnings of $22million in 2017.
The Agriculture Minister highlighted the negative impacts of the leaf blight disease which caused widespread devastation to the Samoan taro industry in 1992, affecting the country’s food security, farmer’s livelihoods, loss of taro genetic resources and a ban from taro importing countries.