|Sweet pineapples from Hawaii for improving Pacific health|
|Friday, 08 May 2015 10:14|
The Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) based in Suva, Fiji, recently received six varieties of sweet pineapple from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) based in Hilo, Hawaii.
The pineapple samples came as tissue cultures, that is, tiny plants grown in clean vials under laboratory conditions. They are virus-tested (disease free) and safe for distribution.
SPC sourced the new varieties in response to Niue’s initial request in 2012, followed by requests from Cook Islands, Marshall Islands and Fiji. The process and logistics of acquiring the pineapples took some time, due to the need to carry out time-consuming virus-testing, comply with internationally approved phytosanitary measures and meet biosecurity import conditions laid down by the importing country, in this case Fiji.
Consumption of fruit in the Pacific is generally low, and countries are encouraged to consume more, but small atoll countries have little fruit diversity.
“We are happy that SPC has received new sweet pineapples for our country. We don’t have the diversity here and accessing disease-free sweet pineapples will help the health and wealth of our small island country,” said Brandon Pasisi, Director of Niue Department of Agriculture.
“One reasonable sized pineapple costs around NZD 30.00 in Niue, which is expensive to the local population. Initially, we thought to acquire pineapples as vegetative material from Cook Islands, Fiji and other Pacific Island countries which have the diversity. Unfortunately, the risk of pests and diseases discouraged us from going ahead,” he added.
Pineapple is an excellent source of manganese, vitamins C, B1 and B6. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant, defending the body against free radicals that contribute to heart and asthma attacks, cancers, diabetes, painful joints and arthritis. A diet containing pineapple therefore improves the body’s immune system. Pineapple is also a good source of copper and folate, for improved functioning and development of the brain, nervous and cardiovascular systems, as well as dietary fibre, for enhanced gastrointestinal function.
CePaCT managed to acquire the sweet pineapple varieties from USDA through its global networks via the Global Crop Diversity Trust. The varieties will be also made available to other SPC members countries through CePaCT’s donor-funded food security projects.
CePaCT has received grant funding from the New Zealand Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to support its capacity to source, multiply and provide resilient, nutrient-rich crops to Pacific countries to sustain livelihoods and manage climatic extremes.
Responding to countries’ needs for a diversity of crops for food security is a key mandate of SPC. Its food security programme helps countries become self-sufficient, with an improved diversity of crops resilient to the effects of natural disasters and climate change. CePaCT, as a Pacific genebank and the international transit centre for plant genetic resources for the Pacific, usually focuses on staple crops, but the many requests for these sweet varieties of pineapple led to the request to USDA. Importantly, pineapples generally can tolerate drought and also grow in rocky conditions, as well as in fertile soil.
CePaCT continues to source other commercial varieties of pineapple from Quadeloupe and Malaysia to broaden diversity in small island countries.
SPC appreciates the valuable assistance of the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji for its timely issuance of permits and carrying out inspection of the varieties upon receipt at CePaCT.
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SPC CePaCT staff checking the new sweet pineapple cultures provided by USDA in Hawaii upon arrival at the Centre.