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Agriculture focus

Filipe Naigulevu
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

FIJI'S agriculture sector is expected to benefit from more initiatives under the Australia and New Zealand-funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) program.

This was reaffirmed by the program's national coordinator Losalini Leweniqila during the PHAMA Coordinating Committee meeting in Nadi last week.

And as part of this support, PHAMA over the next five months will continue working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Pacific Community (SPC) on developing a field guide on pest management, a taro quality manual.

This also includes rejuvenating the sea container hygiene system with the support of Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking during the meeting last week, Ms Leweniqila highlighted that Fiji was ready for PHAMA Plus.

Ms Leweniqila said the inclusion of representatives from the Ministry of Women in Fiji's Market Access Working Group (MAWG) and the resumption of participation by the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji in the group strengthened the MAWG and made it more effective.

Among key initiatives, the program is also working with the Ministry of Fisheries on a commercial trial shipment of cawaki or sea urchins to Australia and is drafting kava regulations in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture.

The PHAMA program will also be hosting a national exporters' forum with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

Deputy chairperson of the MAWG and Ministry of Agriculture's principal economic planning officer for agriculture trade Pauliasi Tuilau said: "From the (Fiji) government's standpoint, we are grateful for the design of PHAMA, especially the Market Access Working Group which has a good mix of stakeholders."

The partnership with PHAMA will also complement the agriculture ministry's focus on commercialising agriculture and linking it to tourism and value-adding.

Meanwhile, the two-day meeting was attended by key government and private sector representatives from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. Discussions revolved around a progress report of PHAMA's work in the target countries in 2017 and PHAMA Plus, the next phase of the program.

The PHAMA program had an eventful year last year with several key developments and progress from PHAMA.

These include :

* conducting a feasibility study on the establishment of a second high-temperature forced air (HTFA) facility in the Central Division

* an analysis of costs of exports of root crops

* collaborating with the Fiji High Commission in Wellington for the Fiji Fresh Produce Forum in Auckland, New Zealand

* active lobbying for an effective Kava Taskforce

* launching Fiji's first Kava Quality Manual and National Kava standard which were distributed by exporters, middlemen and -women, and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA)

* conducting a kava value chain analysis in kava-producing areas of the country and developing a report of the analysis findings

* initiating bilateral talks between Fiji and Vanuatu on kava and

* receiving endorsement by the Codex Committee of North America and South West Pacific on the development of a regional standard for kava.

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