“I spoke with 73 producers in three days and out of these, six are genuine buyers and I see a big potential in China markets as they are good payers. A few have already tasted our product and are very happy to import pineapples and pawpaw from Fiji.”

Ashleen Prasad

FARMBOY, Fiji

The SPC-EU Improvement of Key Services to Agriculture (IKSA) project supported three participants from Fiji to attend the Asia Fruit Logistica Trade Show in Hong Kong from 6-8 September, 2017.

The three, Mohammed Ifraaz from the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji, Rizwan Khan from Pacific Harvest, and Ashleen Prasad from Farmboy attended the trade show, which was a first for Fiji, as it was the first time that Fijian companies and Government staff had participated in this leading fruit and vegetable trade event in Asia.

Mohammed Ifraaz, Rizwan and Ashleen were in Hong Kong for five days, of which three days were spent attending the trade show and the remaining two days visiting some of Hong Kong’s main retail supermarkets and fresh produce markets to track imported produce to assess the possibilities of entry into the Asian market of Fijian fresh fruit and vegetables. The Fiji participants also explored research standards and regulatory requirements for fresh produce entering the Asian market, networked with potential buyers, importers, exporters, service providers, equipment manufacturers and packaging suppliers.

The information gathered by the three will be shared with exporters at a horticulture exporters meeting to be hosted by the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture, in partnership with the IKSA project later this year.

SPC caught up with Ashleen Prasad of Farmboy at her fruit and vegetable stall in Nadi’s Namaka market, in Fiji’s Western division to find out more about her experience at the trade show.

Ashleen is from a family of three girls who work closely with their parents to keep the Farmboy business growing. Ashleen, who is also completing a Masters degree in business administration, handles Farmboy’s purchasing, sales and marketing. Mum Angee manages the market stall and dad does inspections and liaises with farmers.  Farmboy also supply fruit and vegetables to super yachts and resorts in Fiji’s western division.

“I would say “wow”, what an experience it was!” Ashleen told us.

“I had meetings with potential customers and they really want to do business with us. I would say that there is such a big potential for us and I’m just trying to get everything finalised – legal requirements, FarmBoy payment terms, packaging and logistics.

“The workshop was very informative. It was well covered and it wasn’t only about the products and suppliers but it was also about sourcing, packaging, logistics and the demand in the market. In terms of quality, we were also told about the sweetness, the ripeness and we were shown different machines which we don’t have in Fiji. We are very interested in buying some of these sorting machines and I’ve spoken with my dad about purchasing one of these machines. This will also help us to be more competitive as we are competing with pawpaw suppliers from Thailand as well,” Ashleen explained.

“We also got to meet and liaise with potential customers and I have found six genuine customers who are interested in Farmboy’s products and we have begun to liaise with them now. We are presently trying to get our biosecurity requirements sorted out with China. We would like to export pineapples and pawpaw to China. We have been exporting to New Zealand markets but we had problems after Cyclone Winston when our supply went down.

“The presentation in regards to the niche market was really good which actually gave me some tips to consider while doing presentation about FarmBoy and products that are being exported through Fiji market with my potential customers.

“The investment of 30% which we each had to contribute to participate was very worthwhile but one week was very tight and I would like to go back to cover more. I spoke with 73 producers in three days and out of these, six are genuine buyers and I see a big potential in China markets as they are good payers. A few have already tasted our product and are very happy to import pineapples and pawpaw from Fiji.”

“I think that there are other opportunities for Fijian farmers and exporters especially sweet potatoes, the orange one. Farmboy is planning to start producing sweet potato and vudi (plantain) chips too.

“I’d like to share my experience with other suppliers especially in terms of packaging and retaining quality to ensure quality control on landing. Fiji exporters focus on quantity and price and this is because of the price (of packaging). For example, one export carton (10kg) we purchase for F$2 but if Fiji exporters work together and buy from China we could pay 80 cents. We would need to work together.

“Volume (one tonne a week) shouldn’t be a challenge but the second challenge would be quality and meeting standards in terms of standard size and ripeness. One of our options would be sea freight which would be cheaper but quality would be affected if we used this method for fruits. Air freight would be the option that I would choose – even if the product price would need to increase by 20 cents, at least the taste and quality would be retained.

“I took my Farmboy brochures and fliers and made presentations but I would love to have a booth at the next tradeshow. I would also love to attend a tradeshow in China,” she said.