Developing cleaner pathway for Fiji’s agricultural produce

Written By :
15 Jul 2011 12:00

image Written By : Biosecurity Authority of Fiji. Fiji’s reputation as an exporter of high-quality, clean agricultural produce depends largely on its freedom from pests and diseases. Bio-security Authority of Fiji (BAF) plays a huge role in ensuring Fiji maintains its position in the competitive agricultural export market through various ways including providing information, inspection, certification and training to meet the import requirements of overseas countries.
Last month, BAF conducted a two-day training with farmers, fresh produce exporters, extension and research officers from Ministry of Primary Industries in the Western Division on requirements that need to be met to export fresh commodities to New Zealand (NZ) in accordance with requirements mentioned in the Bilateral Quarantine Agreement (BQA) between Fiji and NZ.
A bilateral quarantine agreement (BQA) is often needed when trade negotiations are undertaken between countries for agricultural produce that may harbour pests and diseases harmful to the importing country. In 1996, a BQA was developed and agreed upon between NZ and Fiji for fresh commodities to be exported to NZ, which required having a structured system to maintain product quality, integrity and traceability, and to minimize the risk of pests and disease entering NZ. The main concern was for fruit flies, which posed a high risk unless stringent quality control and approved treatment were enforced.
The BQA between Fiji and NZ is based on Systems Approach and Quality Management. The systems approach and quality management involves farmer registration and advice on crop management techniques, crop harvesting, fruit grading, fruit inspection, high temperature forced air (HTFA) treatment, phytosanitary inspection and certification for export of agricultural commodities by biosecurity officers for different stakeholders in the private and public sector in Fiji. The systems approach is undertaken to maintain continuous production, supply and quality control to reduce the rejection rate of the export product. Re-export or a ban on products would have drastic effect on farmers, exporters as well as Fiji’s economy.
Agricultural produce under Fiji-NZ BQA include breadfruits, papaya, mangoes and eggplants. The systems approach has a number of components which include:
Grower and Site registration – Growers of breadfruit, papaya, mangoes and eggplants are registered and regular visits are made to their farms by Ministry of Primary Industries extension officers to acquire information on the farmer and his farm, give registration number, verify the production area and plants and develop a map of the farm. Exporters are also registered. Farmers are required to have grading, inspection and storage facilities and also have proper transportation to pack houses.
Field Control Measures – Growers are required to maintain field hygiene and are regularly advised on crop management practices such as weed control, scheduled protein bait spray for fruit fly (excluding papaya), pruning of branches and removal of dead leaves and shoots and fallen and overripe fruits to prevent breeding of fruit flies. Fruits harvested only from registered sites and farms and received approved field sanitation measures are taken to packing houses for sorting and grading by exporters. Maximum care is taken to avoid injuring fruits during harvest and packing, thus eliminating post harvest diseases.
Exporter/Packhouse – Harvested BQA fruits are sorted and packed at packing houses approved by BAF. Biosecurity officials examine the daily purchasing dockets supplied by exporters to ensure that no fruits are purchased from unregistered growers. The Biosecurity officers will then undertake a thorough inspection of a 600 unit sample on grower line basis and record the details after the pack house staff have completed their grading and inspection. BAF then certifies the exact weight and number of fruits for shipments inspected and transported to the HTFA treatment center by the exporter.
High Temperature Forced Air (HTFA) – Only mango, eggplant, breadfruit and pawpaw that have been properly graded by the exporter staff, inspected by quarantine staff, covered by correct documentation, will be received at the HTFA Chamber for treatment. After treatment, it is subject to further inspection, weighted, packed and labelled. It is sorted in a pest-proof facility at the treatment center to prevent re-infestation and contamination. The original or a certified copy of the original, high temperature forced air (HTFA) treatment record must accompany the consignment. A unique batch number is encoded on the printout.
Phytosanitary Certificate – After being satisfied that all pre-export procedures and pathway have been successfully followed, BAF issues an International Phytosanitary Certificate covering each shipment cleared for export. Printouts of treatments and additional declaration are also attached to the Phytosanitary certificate.
BAF formally audits the pathways of papaya, eggplants, mangoes and breadfruit to ensure all exporters comply with New Zealand requirements stipulated under the BQA.
The systems approach and quality management ensures that there are no interception of regulated fruit flies in eggplants, mangoes, papaya and breadfruit exported to NZ. Fiji’s export volume on BQA commodities has also escalated over the years.

BAF together with other stakeholders is also working closely with Biosecurity Australia to develop a cleaner pathway for dalo and ginger exports. Dalo is one of the major export commodities in Fiji with more than $25million of export earnings yearly. Two members of Biosecurity Australia came to Fiji early this year for a field visit. While their visit was to determine the presence of the exotic disease Bacterial Crown Rot (BCR) in Fiji papaya, these officers also examined the dalo export pathway. Several containers of fresh dalo from Fiji had been rejected by Australia between March and August 2010 due to non-compliance with Biosecurity quarantine requirements. One of the major issues was that a few fresh dalo corms rotted on arrival in Australia due to an infection caused by pathogenic organisms that invaded damaged tissues during transit. This could have resulted from poor handling during harvesting and transportation or at the packing house when preparing the consignment for export.
The visit enabled the Biosecurity Australia staff to understand the situation in Fiji and appreciate the challenges in the dalo supply chain. Biosecurity Australia is currently finalizing the pest risk analysis on dalo which will improve standards for dalo exporters thus minimizing pests and diseases interceptions. Fiji also sent a report to Biosecurity Australia confirming that our papaya is free of Bacterial Crown Rot disease. Biosecurity Australia is also developing an import risk analysis report on export of Fiji ginger to Australia.
This week the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Programme was launched in Fiji. PHAMA is a new trade facilitation programme set up by the Australian government to assist Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) as a support mechanism for the expansion of export market opportunities for horticultural and other agricultural commodities. BAF also has a huge role to play in PHAMA as the second component of the programme involves implementation of Market Access Requirements which involves developing the capacity of exporting countries to meet critical biosecurity and quarantine requirements, underpinning the maintenance of market access for highest priority products. The major outcomes in this area will include:
n Developing operational procedures required to meet biosecurity and quarantine protocols.
n Developing capacity of quarantine officers, exporters, producers and treatment facility operators to implement required procedures.
n Developing capacity of export producers to meet industry ‘best practice’ codes.
n Ensuring phytosanitary treatment, sanitary handling and diagnostic facilities are established/upgraded and operating effectively.
n Ensuring government agencies are adequately resourced to perform key biosecurity and quarantine functions.

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