Thu, Dec 02, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Heat-treated papaya gets the green light for export

HOT COMMODITY Taiwan's papayas have been approved for export to the Japanese market after the industry came up with a novel way to control pests


Taiwan can finally export the non-transgenic papaya to the Japanese market following an eight-year effort in designing the appropriate heat treatment for local papaya, the Council of Agriculture said yesterday, citing an announcement made by Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries.

The nation's papaya was previously denied entry by the Japanese government due to concerns over the potential spread of pests of citrus and other subtropical fruits, according to the council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.

In Taiwan, the Oriental fruit fly and the melon fruit fly are common pests associated with certain fruits, including papaya, the bureau said.

In March, 1997, the government conducted infestation measures involving a vapor heat treatment technology which was developed by researchers at the bureau's branch in Taichung and sent the results to Japan. The reports said that eggs and larvae inside papaya can be destroyed at temperatures higher than 47.2?C. Japanese officials, however, demanded further evidence.

"Japan takes pest control very seriously," Chang Shu-young (張世揚), head of the bureau's Plant Quarantine Division, told the Taipei Times yesterday.

"In February, Japanese inspectors visited Taiwan to observe the operation of vapor heat treatment in a bid to recognize the effectiveness of the technology," he added.

Currently, vapor heat is an approved treatment for non-transgenic papaya. In addition to the factory in Taichung, Chang said three new facilities will be established in southern Taiwan in order to boost the daily capacity of treating papaya before it is exported. The expanded facilities will allow for about 60 tonnes of papaya to be treated a day.

Taiwanese papaya was exported to Japan up until 1975. However, papaya ring spot virus soon devastated the industry. For this, several breeding programs were launched to improve its quality.

Currently, Taiwan produces 140,000 tonnes of papaya annually, valued at NT$2 billion. About 85 percent of Taiwan's papaya is classified as "Tainung No.2," which has a high tolerance to the ring spot virus.

Agricultural authorities have been expanding overseas markets in recent years to help absorb a surplus of the fruit, including export to many Southeast Asian countries as well as China.

How bid the Japanese market will be for Taiwanese papaya remains uncertain. "If we can export about 3,000 tonnes of papaya to Japan annually, this will be a boon for thousands of Taiwanese farmers," Chang said.

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