Taveuni’s first ever processing and cold chain facility for fresh produce
On the Garden Island of Taveuni, north of Fiji, lies a humble, roadside facility that could easily be mistaken as “just a shed”. Working inside are women and young adults, peeling taro in preparation for the next shipment to the island.
The facility is home to Road King Farms, a taro processing export business owned by Atish Prasad, a 28-year-old farmer from Fiji who has been exporting fresh and frozen produce including taro, cassava and chillies to New Zealand and Australia for more than three years.
While Taveuni accounts for more than half of Fiji’s taro exports, processing and preserving its taro for export has proven challenging for several reasons including a lack of cold storage facilities and a ship that comes only once a week to the island.
The short consignment purchasing and preparation time, as well as a lengthy supply chain that takes up to seven days, leads to high wastage of almost 20% of taro consignments before processing. Over the years, this has led to multiple missed opportunities for farmers who have also suffered losses due to unprocessed taro wastage.
To help address these export challenges, the Australia and New Zealand Government funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus Program (PHAMA Plus) has partnered with Road King Farms to establish Taveuni’s first ever fresh produce and cold chain facility.
“I saw there was a need for a cold chain facility in Taveuni that would enable the processing and export of frozen produce from Taveuni direct to overseas markets. The upgraded facility shortens our supply chain, bringing root crop processing closer to the farm gate, improving the quality and freshness of Taveuni’s taro products,” Atish said.
“I’m also proud that by establishing the cold chain storage facility, we’ve been able to provide a lot of job opportunities, particularly for women. Currently, 90% of the Road King Farms workforce are women.”
The collaboration has also established a new workers’ accommodation and rehabilitation centre as part of the facility upgrade. The centre will cater to workers who live remotely, especially during peak production periods.
A new hybrid solar power system was also installed to provide electricity for the cold storage facility. The solar power system will assist in reducing the carbon footprint, wastage of export quality taro, and electricity costs for the company. These practices demonstrate that Road King Farms are considerate about the environment and are ensuring that there is sustainability in the taro supply chain.
“We’re proud to support a young and visionary exporter like Atish who is encouraging onshore value creation, improving taro export quality and ensuring better farm gate prices for Taveuni taro farmers,” says PHAMA Plus Country Manager Navitalai Tuivuniwai.
“The partnership also supports sustainable organic farming through the introduction of a modular designed bio gas and bio fertilizer system to selected taro farmers in Taveuni. This system has the capacity to produce up to 540 litres of organic liquid fertilizer that will be distributed to enhance crop yields and improve soil health, promoting sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture practices for farmers.”
A father of two, Atish also has roofing iron and tire import businesses and shared that his decision to go into root crop exports was his desire to try something new and innovative, which would encourage farmers to continue planting taro.
“I have about 300 farmers on the island who supply taro and other fresh produce, and I always make sure these farmers get a fair price for their produce. It was because of the farmers that I believed it was important for me to step up and create this export business so that they could receive competitive pricing, allowing them to raise their production in terms of farming.
Like any other business, I’ve faced numerous challenges since the start; it’s not an easy business. I believe there is currently no single exporter who exports these frozen products directly from Taveuni, so I took on the risk of directly exporting these products from Taveuni,” he said.
Customers from New Zealand have commended the quality of the taro being exported, feedback that Atish couldn’t be more pleased to have received. Atish’s plan for the future is to maintain quality and market access for Taveuni taro while also encouraging farmers to plant more taro to meet export demand.
For more information, please contact Country Manager Fiji, Mr. Navitalai Tuivuniwai on firstname.lastname@example.org