Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tolai taro for Port Moresby

ENB taro selling at SVS Foodland supermarket, Harbour city
The first chilling container containing bags of taro, singapore and dry coconuts from East New Britain province went on sale in the Port Moresby in the week leading up to independence on Sept 16, 2010.
These food items were delivered to the Pacific Adventist University (PAU) outside Port Moresby on Sept 10, 2010, after they left Rabaul on Aug 22.
 The shipment was the first joint effort by the taro commercialisation project of National Agriculture Research Institute’s Islands regional centre, Kerevat and the East New Britain women and youth in agriculture (ENBWYIA) to sell taro in Port Moresby markets.
The products were packed in polysacs and stored in cool temperatures between five to eight degrees Celsius during shipment.
There were three taro varieties in the shipment: Baining north, Pomio kukos and Talasea K10. 
Project coordinator Kiteni Kurika and staff from NARI Southern regional centre, Laloki, inspected the quality of the produce on arrival and noted that they were still in good condition for selling.
The taros were distributed to buyers in Port Moresby on Monday Sept 13 and follow-up visits by NARI staff that week revealed that the taros were selling at seven major supermarkets in the city.
A customer buying ENB taro at Stop n Shop supermarket, Rainbow, Gerehu
Their quality and appearance were still good.
 Supermarket staff interviewed were not aware that the taros were from East New Britain.
The taros were selling at K5.90 to K8.95 per kilogram with mark ups of 47 to 124% above the selling price.
The prices will be marked down after one to two weeks of trading as the quality of the taros start to drop.
This initiative came about after decades of research on taro pest and management at the NARI Islands regional centre at Kerevat.
 The bonus of the taro research was that it didn’t stop after a chemical control package was identified to eliminate the threat of taro beetle damaging taro corms, but developed right through to commercialisation stage. 
The taro commercialisation project is spearheaded by ENBWYIA with the support of East New Britain provincial government and NARI.
 The aim of the project is to export the popular food crop outside of the province.
The two-year project which began in March this year was funded by Australian innovative grant scheme (AIGS).
The project aims to research the viability of producing high quality taro consistently for local and international markets.
The ENBWYIA are very fortunate to collaborate with NARI Kerevat in this project and are looking forward to positive outcomes.
They are already being trained to apply Bifenthrin and Mustang as control agents of taro beetle and apply best cultivation practices and post harvest techniques for shipping and marketing. 
The PAU’s commercial section has indicated that the success of this first shipment could lead to other root crops, vegetables and fruits from East New Britain being exported to Port Moresby.
The project would be conducting a taro market survey for wholesalers, retailers and consumers with each shipment to assess the viability of marketing ENB taro in Port Moresby.
Preliminary indications from the sale of the first taro shipment were very encouraging, as all the taros were sold out within a week.
There is, however, scope for improvement: firstly to promote and create awareness on ENB taro amongst Port Moresby buyers and consumers, and secondly to identify other produce with good prospects for the Port Moresby market.  

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