In the aftermath of a meeting of Rarotonga growers, yesterday, the push to export pawpaw from the Cook Islands to New Zealand has gained momentum.
The interest was reawakened after businessman Mike Pero with his pending airline, Pasifika Air, pushed for Rarotonga to export the fruit. Last week, Air New Zealand jumped on board and said “they’re more than interested” to speak to anyone wanting to export. The aforementioned meeting, set up by the Ministry of Agriculture, was to figure out if this was something the growers wanted to pursue.
At the meeting, grower Danny Mataroa said people want to export pawpaw but there’s no heat treatment facility at the moment, which is the main concern. The Cook Islands did have a heat treatment plant, operating at Rarotonga’s international airport 25 years ago. Steve Anderson, who ran the plant in the late nineties, said it was ripped out a couple of years ago to make room for Air New Zealand’s storage.
Mataroa said on three occasions farmers started growing pawpaw for export with the promise of a heat treatment plant being ready when the fruit was but the plant never got established.
“We’re not going to be really enthusiastic if the heat treatment plant is not there. We need to sort out that treatment plant before the forming of the cooperative,” he told cookislandsnews.com.
“Once we see a machine over there, we will grow the pawpaw. When we see the machine, it will encourage us to plant.”
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