CAPTION: The Managing Director of Kaiming Agro Processing Ltd, Kaiming Qiu, looks on as workers dice ginger.
In less than a decade, Kaiming Agro Processing Ltd (KAPL) has built a solid reputation as one of Fiji?s leading agricultural exporters.
Today, KAPL employs over a hundred people at its Navua-based processing factory and rakes in around FJD 4 million from export sales of processed ginger and other root crops ? a significant improvement on the FJD 600,000 the company made in 2006, when it began operation. ? ??
Kaiming Qiu, Managing Director of KAPL, says that the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, through the European Union-funded Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) Project, has played a big part in the success of his company.??
?Through IACT?s assistance, we ventured into producing finished ginger products such as ginger confectionery from the semi-processed ginger that we used to supply. This has helped us make bigger profits, as finished ginger products don?t need to be processed further and are ready to be sold directly on the export markets,? he said.
The main goal of the IACT project is to strengthen the export capacity of Pacific countries and territories in the primary industries of agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and livestock.
The project employs a whole supply chain approach, assisting commercial ventures such as KAPL to become export-oriented enterprises that will consistently supply overseas markets with competitive products.?
KAPL was initially assisted by the EU-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project, after which support has continued under the IACT project. The FACT project concluded in 2012.
IACT Team Leader, Samu Turagacati, says that the assistance provided by the two projects (FACT and IACT) has expanded both the market and supply base for KAPL.
?The expansion will increase the number of Fiji farmers producing for those huge export markets, and hence consolidate the ginger industry in the country,? Turagacati said.
Qiu, who came to Fiji from China in 1996, said that he fell in love with the ?untouched? beauty of the environment in Fiji.
?I felt that agriculture had potential in Fiji and so, in 1999, I started off with eight acres of land to plant ginger and other crops. However, in 2002, I had difficulty selling my crops locally, so I started looking for overseas buyers. Fortunately, in 2006, I found a ginger buyer overseas and started to export semi-processed ginger to New Zealand and Australia.?
Since then, Qiu has spent close to FJD 2 million in upgrading his factory, which now supplies markets in New Zealand, Australia, the USA, and expects to export to other regions in the near future.
His decision to venture into exporting ginger is seen as a timely one for the industry, considering the high demand for Fiji-grown ginger in the US and European markets. According to Qiu, Fiji ginger is renowned for its low fibre content and spectacular taste.
Like any export commodity, there are risks associated with the export of ginger, and these need to be managed properly.
Qiu explains that diseases and pests such as nematodes ? plant parasitic roundworms ? are a major threat to the ginger industry in the country. The industry is also at risk from natural disasters such as cyclones and flooding.
He said that, with the help of IACT, they have re-looked at the processes involved in the production and handling of ginger ? from farms to factory and then to shipment ? in order to avoid post-harvest losses through poor harvesting and handling practices.
In 2012, IACT assisted KAPL to acquire the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification. Currently, KAPL is working towards ISO 22000 standards.
?Meeting these international standards helps benchmark our products in the international markets and assures overseas buyers that products exported by KAPL are safe for consumption and of high quality,? Qui explained.
Turagacati said that IACT supported KAPL in meeting these international standards because of the strong market signals coming from current and emerging export markets.
Qiu is confident that Fiji ginger has the potential to compete in overseas markets. This, he said, depended on how well exporters and farmers can work together to produce the volume of ginger required to meet the demands of the overseas markets.
He stated that farmers also need to be educated on how to plant disease-free ginger ? an area that the Fiji Government and IACT have been working to improve.
According to Osea Rasea, IACT?s Forest and Agriculture Diversification Technician, the project has been working with ginger farmers around the country in providing technical advice on proper crop management practices so that farmers can produce top quality ginger for the export markets.
Currently, between 350 and 400 farmers, mostly concentrated in Fiji?s Central Division, supply ginger to KAPL.