FIELD TO Re­sort

mailife - - Advertorial - Par­tic­i­pants Guar­an­tee Sys­tem (PGS) PGS Project Co-or­di­na­tor: Dr Robert Ersk­ine-Smith, rob.ersk­ine.smith@gmail.com

Change is afoot in Fiji’s tourism in­dus­try as more and more re­sort chefs em­brace lo­cal in­gre­di­ents over im­ported pro­duce. This move to adopt greater use of lo­cal pro­duce in Fi­jian re­sorts is linked to global “slow food” and “farm to ta­ble” move­ments, which en­cour­age pre­serv­ing tra­di­tional and re­gional cui­sine by util­is­ing lo­cal farm pro­duce, livestock and fish. The chang­ing palates of trav­ellers who are more em­brac­ing of dif­fer­ent tastes and flavours has also been a fac­tor be­hind this change. The Fi­jian tourism in­dus­try, which started to de­velop in the late 1960s, of­fered mainly West­ern fare made with im­ported in­gre­di­ents in or­der to ap­peal to pri­mar­ily Aus­tralasian trav­ellers. But with South East Asian food and Pa­cific Food mak­ing in­roads in Aus­tralia and New Zealand in re­cent decades, the culi­nary pref­er­ences of trav­ellers from Fiji’s two main source mar­kets have also be­come more ad­ven­tur­ous as a re­sult. The ben­e­fits are mul­ti­plied many fold. Trav­ellers to Fiji are able to sam­ple some of the fresh­est lo­cal pro­duce that the coun­try has to of­fer as in­ter­preted by in­no­va­tive re­sort chefs. What’s more? It helps chip away at the Fi­jian tourism in­dus­try’s his­tor­i­cally high food im­port bill while spread­ing the ben­e­fits of the tourist dol­lar fur­ther down the sup­ply chain to small grass­roots farm­ers. “The Fi­jian ex­pe­ri­ence is an im­mer­sive one. As soon as you step off the plane, you can­not help but feel the change in the air. This brand of au­then­tic­ity is main­tained by more and more ho­tels opt­ing to use fresh and healthy Fi­jian grown pro­duce in their menu,” said Dr Au­drey Au­mua, Deputy Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of The Pa­cific Com­mu­nity (SPC), the sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal agency that’s play­ing a part in this change. While the Fi­jian tourism in­dus­try has been keen to cap­i­talise on this grow­ing trend and utilise more lo­cal pro­duce in re­sort menus for some time now, there was grave con­cern that the de­struc­tion caused by Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston in Fe­bru­ary 2016 would jeop­ar­dise the qual­ity and the con­sis­tency of sup­ply and the grow­ing vol­ume of lo­cally grown in­gre­di­ents re­quired by the tourism in­dus­try.

AS­SIST­ING FARM­ERS

In June 2016, the Euro­pean Union launched the In­creas­ing Agri­cul­ture Com­mod­ity Trade (IACT) Project TC Win­ston Re­cov­ery Ac­tion, a FJ$4.3 mil­lion project with the Pa­cific Com­mu­nity (SPC) to as­sist com­mer­cial farm­ers and traders to re­cover from dam­age in­curred by the cy­clone. ‘’This re­cov­ery project strate­gi­cally di­rected as­sis­tance at com­mer­cial farm­ers. By restor­ing and strength­en­ing dis­rupted value-chains the project con­trib­uted to build a more re­silient fu­ture for busi­nesses and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” said H.E. An­drew Ja­cobs, Euro­pean Union (EU) Am­bas­sador to the Pa­cific. As the strong­est trop­i­cal cy­clone to make land­fall in South Pa­cific Basin in recorded his­tory, TC Win­ston caused wide­spread dev­as­ta­tion to many in­dus­tries in­clud­ing ex­ten­sive dam­age to Fiji’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor amount­ing to FJ$208.3 mil­lion (US$100.2 mil­lion). Over the past nine months, the project has found suc­cess work­ing with a num­ber of fresh pro­duce and aqua­cul­ture farm­ers in Fiji to get lo­cally grown pro­duce back on the mar­ket, and onto the menu in re­sorts around Fiji. Here are some of the in­di­vid­ual suc­cess sto­ries.

TOMA­TOES

A part­ner­ship be­tween farm­ers groups in the greater Si­ga­toka and Suva ar­eas and a num­ber of lead­ing Fi­jian re­sorts, is putting more fresh, lo­cally-grown toma­toes on hol­i­day mak­ers plates. Un­der a par­tic­i­pa­tory Guar­an­tee Sys­tem (PGS) es­tab­lished in 2014, farm­ers guar­an­tee to sup­ply high qual­ity veg­eta­bles to re­place im­ports, and re­sorts guar­an­tee a higher than mar­ket but lower than im­port price and to ac­cept a cer­tain min­i­mum amount each week. Af­ter en­tire crops were wiped out by TC Win­ston, the project has sup­ported 240 farm­ers to struc­ture them­selves into grow­ing clus­ters to pro­duce toma­toes and other veg­eta­bles. The project has also pro­vided cul­ti­va­tion train­ing, ir­ri­ga­tion and green house equip­ment to as­sist with year round pro­duc­tion. It is hoped that by hav­ing 16 dis­persed lo­ca­tions and im­proved pro­tec­tion for crops, this will pre­vent a com­plete de­struc­tion of pro­duc­tion in the fu­ture.

PRAWNS AND CRABS

Apart from tak­ing in the beau­ti­ful sites and soak­ing up the sun, the Fi­jian ex­pe­ri­ence is not com­plete with­out a de­li­cious hearty Fi­jian meal. Con­sid­ered a del­i­cacy, the na­tive mud crab is an iconic species in Fiji, har­vested by coastal com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly those liv­ing near man­grove forests. Es­tab­lished in 2009, The Crab Com­pany is a unique en­ter­prise that spe­cialises in the pro­duc­tion of live mud crabs and prawns for the grow­ing Pa­cific seafood mar­ket. The com­pany grows crabs from a young crablet stage for up to eight months to ac­quire a healthy size at its farm in Ravi­ravi, lo­cated on the main is­land of Viti Levu. Small quan­ti­ties of wild mud crabs are also pur­chased from lo­cal fish­ers for fat­ten­ing and the com­pany has plans to de­velop com­mu­nity man­grove crab farm­ing to feed into the com­pany’s op­er­a­tions and mar­ket. The com­pany was sup­ply­ing crabs to ma­jor ho­tels in Fiji such as Sof­i­tel, The Fi­jian, Hil­ton, Pearl and the Wakaya Is­land Re­sort when it lost all of its breed­ing stock and frozen feed due to the power out­ages caused by the de­struc­tion of the elec­tri­cal sys­tem by TC Win­ston. To get things back on track, the project has as­sisted with the in­stal­la­tion of a so­lar power grid to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to pro­tect their hatch­ery and feed short­age. TC Win­ston also de­stroyed the elec­tri­cal and re­frig­er­a­tion struc­tures at the com­pany’s farm in Navua. With in­creas­ing de­mand for fresh prawns, the project has re­stored the blast freezer and helped the com­pany to in­crease its pro­duc­tion area by 150% and thereby ful­fil or­ders for prawns. “The TC Win­ston re­cov­ery as­sis­tance has been very in­dis­pens­able in get­ting us back on our feet,” says com­pany di­rec­tor Wilco Liebregts. “The so­lar sys­tem in­tro­duces a re­new­able so­lu­tion for re­li­able elec­tric­ity and dra­mat­i­cally re­duces our de­pen­dence on grid power and saves us a con­sid­er­able amount of money. It may even help us gen­er­ate some funds when we sell some of the power to the grid.”

COF­FEE

Kiwi, Luke Fryett started Bula Cof­fee in 2011 af­ter dis­cov­er­ing dor­mant cof­fee plants in Fiji’s Navosa Prov­ince that had been planted many decades ago. Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed cof­fee grow­ing through­out many re­gions of Fiji’s sec­ond largest is­land Vanua Levu. The com­pany has grown steadily and was on track with its pur­chase of wild-har­vested green beans from vil­lage com­mu­ni­ties on Viti Levu to pro­duce 60 tonnes in 2016 be­fore TC Win­ston hit, and overnight the har­vest was de­stroyed. Sev­eral ar­eas in Vanua Levu were still able to sup­ply but too many com­pli­ca­tions with pro­cess­ing the cher­ries and avoid­ing con­tam­i­na­tion in trans­port, meant that Bula Cof­fee was un­able to pur­chase. The project has stepped in to as­sist Bula Cof­fee with the pur­chase of a mo­bile pro­cess­ing unit, which al­lows for the pulp­ing and dry­ing of cof­fee beans at the vil­lage. Bula Cof­fee has also been helped to set up two nurs­eries to grow the best lo­cally suited species of cof­fee to en­cour­age more farm­ers to take up cof­fee as an al­ter­na­tive long term crop in ad­di­tion to their sea­sonal crops. “By go­ing from wild-har­vest to wider cul­ti­va­tion, these timely in­ter­ven­tions will help grow the Fi­jian cof­fee in­dus­try and bring much needed in­come to many grass­roots farm­ers,” said Fryett, who is aim­ing to reach an am­bi­tious tar­get of 300 tonnes by 2020.

CHOCO­LATE

Ja­panese To­mo­hito Zukoshi started the gourmet Fi­jian choco­late brand in 2007 af­ter stum­bling upon old, vine-cov­ered co­coa plan­ta­tions on Fiji’s sec­ond largest is­land Vanua Levu. To­day, Adi Choco­late plays an in­stru­men­tal role in the devel­op­ment of Fiji’s co­coa in­dus­try, work­ing di­rectly with 20 grass­roots farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties to im­prove the vol­ume and qual­ity of lo­cally grown co­coa. The brand was on track to pro­duce 15 tonnes of raw co­coa in 2016 for its line of dark choco­late prod­ucts when TC Win­ston wiped out al­most the en­tire year’s sup­ply by caus­ing wide­spread dam­age to co­coa plan­ta­tions in Fiji. To help this fledg­ling in­dus­try get back on its feet, the project has en­gaged Adi Choco­late to help Fi­jian co­coa farm­ers clear their farms as well as cre­ate and main­tain a new­found network of co­coa farm­ers. The project is as­sist­ing farmer groups with the es­tab­lish­ment of three fer­menters and dry­ing cen­tres with the aim of im­prov­ing the qual­ity of co­coa pro­duc­tion, and pro­vi­sion of qual­ity con­trol test­ing me­ters, an es­sen­tial el­e­ment to demon­strate the best time to har­vest and how to con­trol the fer­ment­ing and dry­ing process. Train­ing in best har­vest­ing prac­tices and the qual­ity con­trol of the fer­menter and dry­ing process has been an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of sup­port. The project is also as­sist­ing Fi­jian co­coa farm­ers with or­ganic and eth­i­cal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, which will en­able them to pro­vide higher qual­ity beans, im­prove the buyer/farmer re­la­tion­ship, and in­crease the in­ter­est in co­coa farm­ing as an ad­di­tional source of in­come for farm­ers who grow other crops.

An ar­ray of fresh pro­duce of the Fiji Is­lands.

PGS Farmer walk­ing through his tomato farm

Grand Pa­cific Ho­tel Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Mo­hammed Arun, pre­pares salad, us­ing lo­cally sourced in­gre­di­ents

Farmer from the Crab Com­pany Fiji stand­ing in front of the Crab Farm in Navua. Photo: Frank Koroi

Seafood plat­ter served at Malolo Is­land Re­sort

Farmer from Nadroumai (Nadroga Prov­ince) pick­ing cof­fee berries

Lo­cally grown co­coa

Lo­cal choco­lates cre­ated by Adi Choco­late

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