In our last article (The Fiji Times, September 4), we discussed issues that were of concern in the past.
One of the most sensitive issues to discuss in the export process is who takes the biggest chunk in terms of earnings.
The biggest reason many do not like to discuss this is sorely due to the fact that in the business world, making the most profit is the bottom line.
What the Fiji Export Council (FEC) is concerned with, is that those at the very beginning of the equation often make the lowest profit.
Trading through mobile phones is a solution, which is a proven success in African countries. A farmer is informed daily on details of market trends, shipping schedules and pricing issues daily via a mobile provider.
But it could be difficult, in Fiji's case as a farmer does not really know where his product will end up or how much it will eventually fetch when it reaches the consumer.
Many years ago, Apolosi Nawai decided to cut out the middlemen after observations that the farmers were being ripped off.
Today, the process has become much more complex. But using middlemen or not is again something the farmer should explore before engaging.
Information is perhaps his best weapon against these new changes, the business world is a cut-throat world and one that same note the export market knows no friend also.
Many farmers interviewed from the Central Division are content with the concept of providing for the export market via an agent or middleman who then supplies to the exporter.
For them the idea of setting up their own business to export themselves is somewhat far- fetched idea as they do not have the confidence and the know how to do it.
Also because 80 per cent of our farmers and suppliers are hard working men and women, usually below the low-income earning bracket, and as a result do not attain the required education level to understand the intricate details of running a business up to export level.
But they are the resource owners.
Some have tried to export but have had to wind up their business because they lacked proper planning, didn't conduct a market research, had no detailed logistics plan, did not fully understand how a business should be run, lacked understanding on exporting standards and the supply chain.
But what they had was an abundance of land resource and potential to produce.
If we go back in history, Fiji's location as made it an ideal distribution point for exports and re-exports because of its location and available natural resources.
The export business has existed since the white settlers ventured into our water from the 1800s, carrying on with the cotton boom and then the establishment of the sugar industry early in the 1900s.
The Sugar industry which is a remnant of the colonial era remains one of the biggest industries still today.
Copra and fresh produce export also followed suit, again with companies making use of the available resource to set themselves up as exporters at the same time engaging the farmers or producers to supply them with the produce.
How can FEC address these issues?
What FEC can offer to these grassroots based people is to equip them with the information to proceed further or improve their capacity to either supply or capacity to earn more.
* Our primary role apart from managing the Duty Suspension Scheme for the manufacturing sector is to provide export advice who anybody who plans to export or for those already exporting;
* Market access — provide market information overseas;
* Business planning;
* Acting as a liaison between concerned party or individual with relevant authorities in the industry;
* Run seminars or workshop on Export Education;
* Supply Chain information; and
* Provide information on which organizations are also available to assist either in setting up your business, getting accredited, licensing or funding assistance.
* Jone Kalouniviti is a public relations officer with the FEC. This is a contribution from the council.