MANY do not realise it but government has for the past seven years provided funding to help exporters expand and improve their business.
The National Export Strategy (NES) was implemented in 2006 to help achieve sustainable growth by encouraging exports, competitiveness, diversifying products and value adding to current products and services in the export sector.
Simply put, the NES is a Fijian Government facility that aims to stimulate exports for those already exporting.
Therefore, present exporters that require assistance to increase their exports are encouraged to apply. The six prioritised sectors that the NES facility is targeting this year are agro business, marine products, forestry, ICT, audio visual and mineral water.
Application forms which can be sourced from the Ministry of Primary Industries must have the following types of project to be eligible for funding:
* procurement of manufacturing machines for value adding;
* infrastructure development and
* Procurement of equipment for diversification.
Proposals must state direct and positive impact on foreign exchange earnings in the medium-term, must also demonstrate benefits to the livelihood of the general populace, proposals that require construction works must set clear timelines, budget and an implementation plan; proposals must provide three quotations of project works to be carried out, for instance, construction works and equipment. Exporters who have benefitted from the NES in the past have since gone on to be become some of our top exporters in the country.
The Fiji Export Council is urging all exporters in these priority sectors to apply for the NES Grant before March 15. Government has allocated a $1million grant this year to be shared by those who apply and get the approval for funding.
Much focus is going towards the agriculture sector particularly in the areas of agro-processing today.
It has become imperative that local enterprises improve their processes by meeting high quality qualifications or standards accepted in the international markets for example the EU, ISO or HACCP Standards to have the edge over other countries and also so that their products are accepted by bigger markets.
NES also assists local companies develop new export products, comply with international standards, and expand into new markets. Some companies that have utilised this opportunity and have benefitted in 2012 to help boost their exporting capacity are Pacific Fishing Company, Bula Islands Food Ltd, South Sea Slipway, Food Processors, Balthan Western Ltd and Viti Foods.
Areas improved included for example modifications in factory and new equipment to help them conform to USA food standards for PAFCO, or funding to help Balthan Western Ltd help develop their pineapple farms in Seaqaqa in Vanua Levu.
Other examples include the assistance given to Viti Foods upgrade its facilities to meet Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) standards in order for them to supply Europe and US.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade encourages Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that are in the export business to apply.
The Ministry will assist SMEs by providing advice on the criteria, application process and relevant documents that are required with the application.
The Fiji Export Council is also offering this service.
Application forms and the criteria for funding can be obtained from the ministry on Level 2, Naibati House, Goodenough Street, Suva or any Department of Co-operative's Office in the four Divisions.
The forms and the criteria are also available in the Ministry's website and also from the Fiji Export Council at 32 High St Toorak.
Applications must be submitted to the Ministry by March 15 this year.
* Jone Kalouniviti is a public relations officer with the Fiji Export Council. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.