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Government has supported an extensive planting program

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Jan. 4, 2012) – The Ministry of Agriculture expects the export of Cook Islands pawpaw (papaya) to New Zealand to start within the first half of 2012.

An extensive pawpaw planting programme supported by Cook Islands government has been underway under the direction of the ministry for a number of months, which is expected to culminate in the export of pawpaw to New Zealand as early as February or March.

Outstanding matters to facilitate pawpaw export includes the completion of renovations to the facility housing the Heat Treatment Force Air (HTFA) at Rarotonga airport and a commercial audit of the HTFA by New Zealands Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

With the support of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) we have managed to secure the remaining funding of $10,000 to complete the renovations to the facility to house the HTFA, says Ngatoko Ngatoko, Ministry of Agriculture biosecurity service director.

We expect to complete the renovations by mid January and have scheduled a visit by MAF to perform a commercial audit of the HTFA in the mid to end of February, he says.

A successful commercial audit of the HTFA will enable treatment of Cook Islands pawpaw for export to New Zealand.

The ministry also expects to finalise a lime protocol with MAF in early 2012, which will facilitate the export of Cook Islands lime to New Zealand.

We are in the final stages of finalising the market access arrangements for limes into New Zealand with MAF and expect to complete this process in early 2012, Ngatoko says.

This is an exciting development for the Cook Islands, particularly our sister islands like Mitiaro where there is potential for lime production and export which will have an immediate positive effect on the livelihoods of our people there.

Ngatoko attended a World Health Organisation training workshop on national food control systems in the Pacific, held in Wellington last week.

There he took the opportunity to meet Nacanieli Waqa, the senior advisor of the Pacific Market Access Fresh Produce department within MAF, as well as Cook Islander Tepaeru Herrmann, who is deputy high commissioner at the Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington.

MAF is pleased to support the Cook Islands aspirations for the export of pawpaw, limes and other produce to New Zealand and we look forward to this programme coming to fruition in early 2012, Waqa says.

The position currently held by Waqa with MAF is a consequence of a decision by the Forum Trade Ministers Meeting (FTMM) a few years ago to address market access constraints faced by Pacific Island exports into Australia and New Zealand, says Herrmann.

It is very encouraging to see tangible opportunities for the Cook Islands emanate from regional initiatives such as the FTMM and subsequent collaboration between Cook Islands and New Zealand agencies. The high commission will continue to be available to support these initiatives and the efforts of our line ministries to create pathways and open opportunities for Cook Islands exports in the years and months ahead, she says.

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