SPC: Breadfruit Could Be Export Earner for Pacific Island Nations

305

Suva, Fiji – A four-year pilot project called ‘Developing commercial breadfruit production systems for the Pacific Islands’ underway in Fiji is testing the viability of growing breadfruit as a commercial crop.

‘The aim is to assist farmers to treat breadfruit as an agricultural commodity for export, not just as a backyard crop that grows everywhere,’ said Valerie Saena Tuia, Officer in Charge of Genetic Resources at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT).  

[Valerie Tuia – Officer in Charge of Genetic Resources at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) & Arshni Shandil- Research Technician.]

Ms Tuia explained that the aim of the pilot research project, funded by the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) that began in 2011, is to enhance livelihoods through development of an effective and sustainable breadfruit supply chain at the commercial level. The project will initially focus on Fiji, and its first stage will address the three major constraints to commercial production by working to establish viable small-holder orchard production systems, ensure the ready availability of market preferred planting material that allows for year-round production, and implement best practice post-harvest handling for fresh exports. The second stage will deal with commercial processing of the breadfruit. Breadfruit has also been identified as a priority product for market access by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Project (PHAMA) funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

The role of CePaCT in the project is to develop a rapid multiplication system for breadfruit in tissue culture using a bioreactor system reported to work well with commercial propagation of breadfruit and other crops to supply planting material to farmers. Research Technician Arshni Shandil and Ms Tuia both work on this research.

A bioreactor system is a temporary immersed tilting rocker apparatus initially developed for biotechnological production of substances such as antibodies and pharmaceutical that has been adapted for use in plant propagation systems provided with the necessary nutrients to boost plant growth.

Ms Shandil explained that this system improves plant material quality and growth through better aeration of the roots, better survival of plants in the screenhouse and better establishment in the field as compared to plants produced through the normal semi-solid tissue culture system using glass tubes or bottles.

Using this system also minimises the workload, shelving area and number of containers used. Thanks to these improvements in efficiency could reduce the production costs significantly. CePaCT acquired this system in August of last year.

According to Ms Tuia, the centre also conserves a collection of breadfruit from the Pacific that needs to be evaluated for year-round fruiting, nutritional contents and tolerant traits to climate variability in line with the purpose of the project.

She said that the benefits of this pilot project would be shared with other Pacific Island countries.

The PARDI project is coordinated by the University of Queensland, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and implemented by SPC in collaboration with Fiji’s Ministry of Primary Industries Research Division, Koko Siga (Fiji) and private sector partners (exporters, farmers and commercial nurseries).