PIFON believes that there is great value in farmer-farmer exchanges and the recent success story from Tonga supports this concept. Nearly 18 months ago a series of technical exchanges occurred between Nature’s Way Cooperative (NWC) and the Growers Federation of Tonga (GroFed).
A technical exchange was carried out between Tonga and Fiji from April 8 – 15, 2015 which included a series of trainings on papaya production, costs and returns and value chain aspects. This training exchange was conducted by Fiji’s commercial papaya farmer and FO leader Livai Tora, for the farmers’ organisations in Tonga namely Hahake Farmer’s Association, Nishi Growers, MORDI and Women in Horticulture Groups and organized and hosted by the NIA, GroFed. The papaya production training was aimed at assisting the growers planning to grow and export papaya in turn contributing to PIFON’s objective of providing national FOs with key contacts, information and the technical expertise required to enable their members to better participate in commercial agriculture and at the same time increasing the productivity and environmental sustainability of their members’ farming operations. Tonga had at the time recently re-certified its quarantine treatment facility aiming to begin exporting papaya into the New Zealand market.
A series of follow up papaya trainings and field survey was implemented from 14 – 18 December 2015 by Livai Tora to assist GroFed and its farmers in the planning and implementation of a commercial papaya production plan and also to explore commercial breadfruit production.
A papaya and breadfruit technical exchange was conducted for the Growers Federation of Tonga from the 17th to the 21st of May, 2016. The objective of the technical exchange was to expose the growers from Tonga to Fiji’s current best practices with regards to the papaya and breadfruit export industry. The CTA funded and SPC-PAPP printed Pacific Value Chain Guide was the tool used to articulate all the actors in the chain and all costs involved from the suppliers to the point of export and beyond.
In June 2017, GroFed sent its first trial shipment of export sunrise papaya to New Zealand. Not only did the consignment pass the MPI screening but there was also good feedback from the customers of Fresh Direct. “The customers’ feedback was very positive on quality” says John Hunter of Fresh Direct.
The GroFed team acknowledges the hard work and team effort from all the stakeholders involved for contributing to the success of its first trial shipment – Tonga Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestries (MAFF), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, NZ (MFAT), Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA), Tonga Airports Limited, Air Terminal Services in Tonga, Air NZ Cargo. PIFON is also acknowledged for supporting and facilitating the farmer-farmer exchanges on value chain, production and postharvest handling.