Consumers’ preferences for size, shape, flavour and other characteristics of Fiji’s and Australia’s most promising red papaya varieties will be investigated in a new agribusiness/consumer profiling project.
The research will focus on consumer demand and preferences for specific red papaya varieties and help determine how best to raise the fruit’s retail and export performance. The Fijian-Australian research team hope to help industry overcome obstacles to expansion and significantly increase exports to New Zealand and other markets (i.e. Hong Kong and the USA).
|Papaya is delicious! (photo: Nature's Way Cooperative Fiji Ltd)|
Red papaya is renowned for its sweet flavour and papaya is incredibly healthy (loaded with vitamins C, A and E and folate). Yet global consumption and sale of papaya is not as high as other tropical fruits like banana and pineapple. Fiji has huge potential to increase exports of its branded ‘Fiji Red’ papaya. The Australian industry would also benefit considerably from a modernised profile and the development of overseas markets.
The papaya industry in Fiji is currently constrained by frequent natural disasters, limitations in airfreight capacity and postharvest losses in the wet season. The Australian industry, despite its relative sophistication, has not achieved strong brand awareness due to the numerous and varied-quality varieties on the market.
“The consumer is King in this project”, says research and extension manager Kyle Stice, project team rep from Nature’s Way Cooperative (Fiji Ltd).
“At the heart of it, we envision that if industry can better respond to the preferences and demands of consumers, this will lead to increases in papaya consumption and sustainable economic benefits for all industry stakeholders,” says Mr Stice.
“Our researchers will conduct a range of studies to understand consumer preferences related to packaging, fruit size, appearance, taste, certification and branding and identify what a consumer is really looking for when they buy a papaya.”
A specialist sensory analysis team from Queensland will also survey Australian and New Zealand consumers and identify their tastes (in terms of flavour, texture and other sensory characteristics) and buying behaviour. The ‘Fiji Red’ papaya and a range of red and yellow varieties from Australia will be profiled.
“Up until now, Fijian and Australian papaya industries haven’t benefited from consumer research, whereas banana and pineapple industries have considerably improved their profiles by targeting consumer needs,” says Assoc Prof Steven Underhill, program leader.
Mr Stice believes the papaya project will lay the foundation for a more concerted marketing effort for ‘Fiji Red’ papaya.
“Our growers and exporters are far removed from the consumers who buy ‘Fiji Red’ papaya in overseas markets and there is a real need to bridge this information gap so that our industry can produce what the market really wants,” says Mr Stice.
“Through the local industry’s dedication, and through support from organisations like ACIAR, we have been able to solve many major production constraints, including establishing a certified seed production scheme and developing systems for organic papaya production.
“Despite a recent spate of natural disasters, the Fiji industry is in a position of oversupply, which now allows us to concentrate on delivering what the market really wants.”
Ultimately joint Fijian-Australian industry efforts are a win-win for papaya industries and consumers in the region and abroad. South Pacific climate and landscapes lend themselves to papaya production and consumers can only benefit from ready access to top quality, flavoursome papaya.
By Julie Lloyd, PARDI communications
This research is part of ACIAR’s Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI program) led by The University of Queensland. Papaya partners include Nature’s Way Cooperative Fiji Ltd, Fijian and Australian papaya farmers’ groups, Koko Siga Pacific, the Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Trade and Investment Queensland and Horticulture Australia Ltd.
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