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Paving the way for Fijian ginger

KAPL employs over 100 people at its processing factory (© IACT Project/SPC)
KAPL employs over 100 people at its processing factory
© IACT Project/SPC

Originally from South East Asia, ginger is now cultivated as an annual crop in Fiji. Early ginger production was mainly conducted by Chinese farmers on the island but with ginger exports to North America developing in the 1960s, interest from local Fijian farmers began to grow, and the crop became increasingly established. Fijian ginger now is renowned for its low fibre content, unique taste and flavour but pests and diseases, such as nematodes and parasitic roundworms are major threats. Natural disasters, such as cyclones and flooding, and poor harvesting and handling practices are also serious risks.

In less than a decade, Kaiming Agro Processing Ltd (KAPL) has built a solid reputation as one of Fiji's leading agricultural exporters, with the support of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), through two European Union-funded projects - Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) and Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT). The company employs over 100 people at its Navua-based processing factory where ginger and other root crops are processed for export. At the same time IACT has also been working with farmers to help them produce top quality ginger.

Sprouting new roots

KAPL has ventured into producing finished ginger (© IACT Project/SPC)
KAPL has ventured into producing finished ginger
© IACT Project/SPC

KAPL was initially assisted by the FACT project, which was instrumental in supporting the procurement of ginger processing equipment worth around US$75,000. After the project finished in 2012, support continued through IACT which takes a value chain approach to strengthening the export capacity of agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and livestock sectors in Pacific countries and territories. The project assists commercial ventures, such as KAPL, to become export-oriented enterprises that will consistently supply overseas markets with competitive products. In 2012, IACT assisted KAPL to acquire Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification in order to comply with food safety regulations in importing countries. The company is currently working towards ISO 22000 standards - a standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization that deals with food safety. "Meeting these international standards helps benchmark our products in international markets and assures overseas buyers that products exported by KAPL are safe for consumption and of high quality," explains Kaiming Qiu, KAPL managing director.

"Through IACT's assistance, we ventured into producing finished ginger products such as ginger confectionery from the semi-processed ginger that we used to supply," Qiu adds. "This has helped us make bigger profits, as finished ginger products don't need to be processed further and are ready to be sold directly on the export market." In 2006, in its first year of operation, the company earned an impressive US$315,000 which increased to US$2 million by 2013, with KAPL now exporting to Australia, New Zealand and the US. The company plans to begin production of minced ginger in 2013 using equipment provided by IACT. "Farmers will benefit from this with an additional 200 tonnes of ginger added to their quota," Qiu says.

Strengthening supply

The project has been working with ginger farmers around the country (© IACT Project/SPC)
The project has been working with ginger farmers around the country
© IACT Project/SPC

In 2012, KAPL and IACT analysed all of the processes involved in the production and handling of ginger - from farms, to the factory and then to shipment - to avoid post-harvest losses. Technical production practices (land preparation, seed selection and treatment, planting, fertilisation, pest and disease control, harvesting and storage methods) were identified and then addressed through technical training programmes - provided to 50 farmers so far - that were facilitated by IACT, in collaboration with Fiji's Ministry of Primary Industries. "The project has been working with ginger farmers around the country in providing technical advice on proper crop management practices so that farmers can produce top quality ginger for the export market," explains Osea Rasea, IACT's forest and agriculture diversification technician. Qiu explains that farmers have also been attracted to ginger production because it generates more profit than traditional crops, such as dalo and cassava.

IACT team leader, Samu Turagacati, says that the assistance has not only benefitted KAPL, but has also expanded both the market and supply base for KAPL, with about 400 farmers currently supplying ginger to the company. The accreditation gained through support from IACT has enabled KAPL to move from semi-processed ginger to processing finished products, enabling them to gain entry to new markets. By training farmers, IACT also improved the supply chain, enabling farmers to produce more and better-quality ginger. "This expansion will increase the number of Fiji farmers producing for those huge export markets, and hence consolidate the ginger industry in the country," Turagacati adds.

Written by: Ashley Gopal, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

Date published: July 2013

 

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