As you would be aware, for many years much of the on-island food supplies have relied predominantly on importation either via air or sea freight. There are high costs and both economic and social impacts due to this reliance, and the result can be that fruit and vegetables are high in price and in some cases less than optimal in terms of quality.
In response, Christmas Island Phosphates has commissioned consultants SGS Economics and Planning and Trust Nature Pty Ltd to investigate the feasibility of establishing a sustainable horticultural industry in the Indian Ocean Territories.
The Australian Government has made an investment in the project, with joint funding provided by the Attorney-General’s Department’s IOT Economic Development Fund and Christmas Island Phosphates.
The Horticulture Feasibility Study aims to guide viable and sustainable methods for industry growth across both Christmas and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, paving the way for increased local fruit and vegetable production on-island. The study will also consider the potential for future exports, as well as other opportunities associated with industry establishment. The study will recognise the work by current operators and seek to add value to their endeavours.
As an initial component of the study, consultants from both SGS and Trust Nature recently travelled to Christmas Island to gather inputs. During this time, they met with 26 stakeholders, including current growers, importers of fresh produce (such as supermarkets, restaurants and cafes), utility managers and govt representatives. In addition a very informative and well attended community meeting was held on Thursday, February the 4th at the Cricket Club. Key insights taken away from the consultation included:
1. The identification of over 50 species of fruit and vegetables currently growing on the Island
2. The expression of significant community interest in establishment of community gardens
3. The need for a tropical, rather than European system of fruit and vegetable production
4. That nematodes, as well as other pest and biological challenges faced by growers, can be overcome through the techniques of soil biology and revitalisation being considered by the team
Having now left the Island, the consultant team is in the process of translating the information gathered into a viable model for sustainable growth of the local fruit and vegetable industry. Updates on the proposed model and the project will continue to be communicated to the community through the Islander, so watch this space! Furthermore, upon completion in May, the entire report will be made publicly available.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the study, please feel free to contact the project manager:
OHS & Environmental Officer
Christmas Island Phosphates
PO Box 104, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean 6798
Tel: 9164 8400 ext 236