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Papayas on the menu for Hawaii's pigs

A new report, published by West Hawaii Today, highlights how local communities are pulling together to keep businesses afloat during these uncertain times.

22 April 2020, at 12:58pm

For pig producers that normally rely on catering waste from eat-in restaurants, the current COVID-19 lockdown means the search is on for sustainable feed alternatives to keep pigs healthy and satisfied.

West Hawaii Today reports that the humble papaya is being introduced to pig nutrition plans in herds across the island as a way to keep its two major agricultural industries afloat while restaurants, cafes and bars remain closed.

Speaking to West Hawaii Today, Mike DuPonte, a livestock agent with the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), explains that catering waste constitutes 70 percent of swine diets on the island. The feeding of kitchen waste to pigs is legal in this US state but this practice is illegal in other states and some countries due to the high risk of spreading catastrophic swine diseases, such as African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease.

With food waste in short supply for these farmers, they attempted to buy grain feed from the mainland but this supply quickly ran dry. Now producers are seeking alternative resources to supplement pig feed.

Papaya harvesting has continued as normal but the industry also been impacted by the closure of hotels, restaurants and schools - the primary market for papayas in Hawaii. DuPonte says that growers cannot sell to their normal market so they have "thousands of pounds of product they can't sell left to rot".

Now a partnership between the CTAHR and the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association has provided some hope for the two industries and may prevent total collapse.

The HPIA applied for a $10,000 grant from the state Department of Agriculture that would be used to pay papaya growers for their fruit, which could be used to feed pigs. Although the DOA only approved a partial grant of $4,000, the project has gone forward, which is a positive step for both industries.

DuPonte says that this a sustainable short-term solution as pigs will eat papayas and in great volumes, but the programme is unlikely to work in the long term as supplies decline.

Moreover, papayas and papaya leaves included in swine feed do little to improve the nutritional status of pigs due to their relatively low protein content (Martens et al., 2012).

Producers are currently combining papayas with grains to meet the nutritional requirements of their pigs for now but continue to seek long-term solutions, including utilisation of local feed mills.

Read the full story at West Hawaii Today.