Kiribati eyes EU, Japan and Pacific export markets

The Kiribati Trade Minister (sitting at centre) with the PTI NZ team. Trade & Investment Commissioner Michael Greenslade is at left.

AUCKLAND, 04 JULY 2018 (PACIFIC PERISCOPE) – Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand welcomed a visit from the Kiribati Trade Minister Atarake Nataara Toani Takirua, Secretary to the Minister and Kammari Betiota, Director of Business Regulatory Centre recently.

The trio were in New Zealand on an exploratory mission and met with the PTI NZ team to discuss how the office could assist them with trade and investment opportunities.

Kiribati’s 2017 trade figures ranked it 217th as New Zealand’s trading partnerships. New Zealand imported just $5,649.00 from Kiribati, of which $2,900 was made up of iron and steel. On the other side of the ledger it exported more than $16 million to Kiribati. Additionally, Kiribati Government will start importing potato from New Zealand.

The issue of climate change was raised during the meeting by Minister Nataara, however Betiota was keen to set the story straight.

Although some people have relocated to other islands, “Kiribati will not sink by climate change,” Betiota said. That was reflected in the Government’s vision for the next 20 years.

Minister Nataara acknowledged and thanked the New Zealand Government for their ongoing support. One of their key aims whilst in New Zealand was to find investors into a wide range of opportunities in Kiribati, from off-shore fisheries and processing, aquaculture, coconut oil production, tourism related activities including dive and fishing eco-resort in the Kiribati Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) and inter-island shipping.

In New Zealand, the team put out feelers for assistance for developing their small to medium businesses through the Kiribati Chamber of Commerce.

Although Kiribati’s exports to New Zealand are small in quantity, New Zealand is not their main market for its fisheries.

Kiribati has its sights set on the European and Japanese markets.

Kiribati through the locally established Kiribati Fish Ltd, took its first steps into the European market exporting tuna fillets earlier this year. Under its recently launched 20-year vision plan Kiribati adopted a Trade Policy Framework to increase its participation in the global market through the exports of fish related products.

Kiribati is one of only three other Pacific Island countries including Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea that satisfies the strict requirements for inspection and certification of fish products imported into the EU. Other key export destinations for fish products include USA, Japan and Australia.

But Kiribati is also sending significant amounts of processed copra, by-products of coconut for animal feed and small-scale amounts of virgin coconut oil to Fiji. Kiribati also exports coconut products to Japan. The industry is buoyed by around 2000 cooperative located in many of the outer islands of Kiribati. It is the result of intra trade promotional activities by the Government. The cooperatives can access funding to assist with small businesses and must be registered with a minimum of 10 members. However, on average, there are around 20-30 people per cooperative. The cooperatives contribute to the supply chain of crude coconut oil for export to the Philippines. They can earn AUD$50 per metric tonne depending on the market.

“The Government of Kiribati has existing programs and still committed to providing trainings for cooperatives however, there is great need for continuous support towards cooperatives for sustainable development,” Betiota said.

A Coconut Development Strategy for Virgin Coconut Oil is yet to be formulated. A consultancy work on this will be executed in 2018. One of their aims whilst in New Zealand was to source machinery to process the coconut oil themselves and move up the value-added chain said Secretary Takirua. Two experts in coconut production will also be recruited.

The government is also reviewing its investment regulations to streamline its foreign investment application and approval process. Kiribati is continuing to issue fishing licences, develop tourism, strengthen, promote, reform and regulate its cooperatives.