'Huge need' for Fiji to sell ginger to Australia

Fiji's Agricultural Marketing Authority says there is a "huge need" for farmers to sell their ginger to Australia, where its exports are currently being scrutinised for biosecurity risks. Australian farmers have told a senate inquiry that importing Fijian ginger could devastate the local industry, as the overseas crop runs the risk of carrying a pest known as a burrowing nematode. They say nematodes have been known to wipe out up to 70 per cent of Fiji's crops. Fiji's Agricultural Marketing Authority's sales manager, Alifereti Yaya, told Pacific Beat the nation has moved to eliminate the pest by steaming mature ginger crops before exporting them.

"The mature ginger needs to be sent fresh to overseas markets and to do this there is a risk of the insects going through," he acknowledged. "[But] that is why Fiji is revising our biosecurity protocol - so that the risk that's there is eliminated locally before it's being exported." The Australian inquiry is being led by the Rural and Regional Affairs committee, which is presided over by six Australian senators, to give a chance for stakeholders to share their views on policy and legislation.

The senate inquiry will then produce a report based on its findings, due on November 29. Aside from fearing pest infestations, local farmers have raised concerns cheap foreign imports will undercut local growers' prices. "At the moment, it's more a competition thing between Australian growers and Fiji," says Mr Yaya. But he says for many Fijian farmers, exporting crops to Australia is their only option. "There is a huge need for Fiji farmers to sell their mature ginger and we don't have that market locally," he said. "So the only option for us is to export to Australia."

Source: www.abc.net.au

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