New produce marketing a boost for Fiji’s smallholder farmers
Friday, 24 October 2014 09:48
An ACIAR-funded PARDI participant guarantee system (*PGS) project has made excellent progress in recent months towards helping smallholder vegetable farmers compete against marketers of imported produce.

PGS involves smallholder farmers organising their harvest to sell as a coordinated group to specified markets (i.e. local resorts or supermarkets).

According to project researcher, Dr Rob Erskine-Smith, Fiji farmers have formed several PGS companies and made agreements with leading resorts through which they can market and sell high-value fruit and vegetables and the system is ‘operating well’.

“In essence, for the first time in the region’s history, we have witnessed smallholder farmers plan their businesses around weekly marketing cycles throughout the year and significantly boost their profits as a result,” said Dr Erskine-Smith.

“This season PGS tomato farmers received Fj$4 per kilogram, an improvement of around Fj$2 compared to sales made at municipal markets and roadside stalls.

“Those who have adopted PGS are increasing the quality and production of their crops, selling as part of a reputable group, and tapping into opportunities that would otherwise be met by overseas marketers. They use cardboard boxes and have a brand which is becoming recognised for consistent high quality and the reliability of their supply.

“These PGS farmers now supply the country’s largest resort, the Fijian Shangri-La Resort, the first to establish links with local PGS farmers, and the luxury Intercontinental Resort. Interest from the recently-opened Grand Pacific Hotel, indicates another luxury resort may soon be serving the best quality local tomatoes on the market."

While this progress is considerable, Fiji’s farmers have challenges ahead to maintain momentum and grow their businesses.  It is hoped that further research support will enable them to perfect their processes. Local industry will need support to put structures in place to deal with obstacles, such as extreme weather or market fluctuations.

The PARDI project benefits from the ongoing coordination of project work in-country by Sokoveti Namoumou. Sokoveti performs an incredible job helping to organise reliable produce delivery, arranging tomato grading and packing with farmer volunteers, receiving orders from the buying institutions, and managing the day-to-day logistics and mechanics of the project. Our sincere thanks are extended to Sokoveti.

Ends

For more information contact:

Project Leader: Assoc. Prof. Jennifer Carter, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Project consultant, Dr Rob Erskine-Smith: M – 0431 675 771
PARDI communications, Julie Lloyd: M – 0415 799 890.

Photo Caption: Smallholder tomato farmers in Fiji learn how to grade their produce after forming a PGS group.

*What is PGS?
A participant guarantee system (PGS) is a quality assurance system guaranteed by producers. PGS seeks to provide reliable, consistent quality supplies of premium agricultural products at agreed volumes to specific markets. The initial PARDI PGS project works with four groups of about 16 vegetable farmers in the Sigatoka Valley and Koronivia near Suva, Fiji. Research results from the project will be made available to farmers in other areas across Fiji and across the South Pacific. To practice PGS, a group of farmers form a company and run their farm businesses as members. The group consists of a president, secretary and treasurer. The company is owned equally by members and profits are paid to members according to the produce they supply. The company holds a small portion of the group’s income for operations (i.e. to transport product, run a cool room etc).

Story links:
PGS web page:    http://www.spc.int/lrd/pardi-publications/pgs-package
ACIAR:         http://aciar.gov.au/Pacific%20Crops