FIJI EYES NEW DALO (TARO) MARKET IN U.S.

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 12, 2000 - Fiji Ministry of Information/PINA Nius Online)---Trial shipments of dalo (taro) are being made to the United States to capture the potential market there.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest, a high demand for the commodity exists in Hawai‘i and the West Coast where many Pacific Islanders have settled.

Principle Research Officer Aliki Turagakula explained that the trial shipments, which were carried out from mid-June to early July, were aimed at identifying the optimum conditions in which to send dalo in refrigerated containers by sea freight.

Preliminary results from the trial shipments have been obtained, but are being further analyzed.

It takes nine days to ship dalo to Honolulu, Hawai‘i, and five to six days to ship to Australian or New Zealand ports. Refrigerated sea containers can accommodate 600 bags of dalo, while the airfreight containers can take up to 60 bags.

"The two current markets for Fiji dalo are New Zealand and Australia, both of which have a high demand for pink dalo - Tausala ni Samoa," said Mr. Turagakula.

"But this variety is seasonal, which means for one half of the year we cannot service the Australian and New Zealand markets. It also takes nine to ten months to mature."

Mr. Turagakula said Fiji has developed four hybrid varieties, which take seven to eight months to mature. These include:

"The American market is said to be much bigger than the Australian and New Zealand ones, and the other advantage of it is that it can accept the white, hybrid varieties.

"Current market surveys show that dalo on the American market fetches an average price of F$ 6.60 (US$ 3.0162) per kilo. In New Zealand, dalo is sold for an average F$ 1.79 (US$ 0.818per kilo."

Mr. Turagakula said Jamaica was mainly supplying dalo on the American market.

"We can compete, if not overtake the Jamaican taro. The Tausala ni Samoa and hybrid varieties can compete in terms of size and quality with the Jamaican taro."

He emphasized that the American market was an important one, which, when captured, would bring lots of revenue to local dalo producers.

In related news, prices for Fiji chilies are at an all time high in New Zealand, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. This is due to New Zealand’s growing Asian population and an increase in ethnic eateries, it said.

A kilogram of chilies sells at F$ 9.997 (US$ 4.5686) and the price has remained stable compared to past months.

Currently Fiji exports about 25 to 30 tons of chilies annually.

Chilies are only produced during summer months in New Zealand, but on a very small scale, and, therefore, there is always a high demand.

Almost all local commodities sold in New Zealand have recorded a slight increase in their prices.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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