Trade reboot possible

A FRESH Produce Trade Forum in Auckland last week marked a deliberate reboot of the fresh produce trade relationship between Fiji and New Zealand.

During the forum Fiji’s New Zealand High Commissioner Filimone Waqabaca highlighted on the continuing trade imbalance between Fiji and New Zealand which strongly favoured New Zealand and how to close the gap.

“Fiji is New Zealand’s biggest trading partner in the Pacific importing $NZ400 million ($F586.2m) annually from New Zealand whilst exporting $NZ55m ($F80.6m) to New Zealand,” he said.

“Fiji’s export in fresh produce was worth $NZ14.2m ($F20.8m) between 2011 and 2015.”

Mr Waqabaca compared Fiji’s export figures in roots and tubers, fruit, nuts and ginger with other Pacific countries and asked how could Fiji take some of the market share from these competitors.

He challenged exporters to double Fiji’s export figures to $NZ30m ($F43.9m) in five years.

He said tourism had overtaken trade as the country’s main earner but it needed to build a firm and sustainable platform to move forward together and realise opportunities.

“Agriculture could lift the economic growth of Fiji and had the potential to grow larger than Fiji’s tourism industry,” he said.

Mr Waqabaca said agriculture accounted for 10.5 per cent of Fiji’s GDP and the country could aim for 20 per cent of GDP.

“If Fiji could set itself up to satisfy the needs of the exporters and importers they could operationalise the vision,” Mr Waqabaca said.

The forum noted that relationship between Fiji and New Zealand had flagged in recent years because of a range of political, economic and weather-related supply issues.

But open, friendly and frank discussions on the current state of the industry mapped out a way forward in the outcomes from the meeting.

Fiji’s Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu had opened the meeting and said, “There is a need for more interaction with stakeholders to better understand the needs of fresh producers and agencies and we’re holding dialogue with stakeholders to identify pathways and network opportunities.”

Mr Seruiratu discussed various programs and projects introduced to turn agriculture around.

The forum, organised by the Fiji High Commission in New Zealand, brought together more than 35 key stakeholders from Government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector in Auckland.

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