Over 500 Peach Palm stems were blown down or snapped by Cylcone Evan but the next crop is alive and well and members and friends got together and plan.
NatureFiji-MareqetiViti has introduced the South American Peach Palm as a substitute for Seko – the heart-of-palm of the endangered Fiji Sago Palm and two years ago planted nearly 1,000 Palms in the Sigatoka Valley.
The palm has thrived and in early December, the first commercial sale of heart of palm from the project was sold to the First Landing Resort at Vuda, with a view to the harvesting of 10 stems every two weeks thereafter.
However, ten days later Cyclone Evan destroyed all but a small number of the mature palm stems. This was a calamity but the Peach Palm is naturally resilient, like a banana, the main stem is surrounded by suckers which grow up immediately the main stem is removed. So two weeks after TC Evan, growth of suckers was clearly visible. We are hoping that the fastest growing stems will be available for harvest in 6-9 months.
More disappointing was the loss of 75 of the 100 mature palms in the seed orchard, as the first flower bunch had been observed in the week before TC Evan, so the expectation was for seeds to be available in the middle of 2013. However, that palm was lodged and we do not now expect to see flowering for at least another two years in these damaged palms. This is a setback to NFMV’s plans to distribute seeds to farmers and sago palm harvesters. Fortunately some of the small seed palms survived and these may fruit before then.
In the middle of January about 15 members and friends of NFMV gathered and camped out at the farm. Despite the incredible heat we managed to plant out 2,500 palms in three days of work. These together with the existing 1,000 palms will mean that nearly one hectare of Peach Palm is planted to form a pilot commercial crop. At the same time two varieties of Peach Palm were introduced to the Seed Orchard – one to provide a large fleshy fruit and the other an attractive bright yellow fruit.
Despite the TC Evan set back, NFMV is excited by the progress with the Peach Palm and its potential to assist in a conservation programme for the endangered Fiji Sago Palm as well as provide a new agricultural crop and horticultural product in Fiji.