Facilitating inter-island trade
As well as facilitating trade from Pacific Island Forum member nations with countries outside the region, <strong>Pacific Islands Trade & Invest</strong> (<b>PT&I</b>) also works toward promoting intra-regional trade.<!--more--> In May this year, <b>PT&I</b> NZ was part of a trade mission from Tonga’s agribusiness sector to Samoa.
Tonga’s Minister of Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries, Honourable Sione Sangster Saulala led the trade mission, which the Government of Tonga initiated, to discuss opportunities under a potential bilateral free trade agreement. The delegation of Government officials and exporters met with the Government Ministries and th private sector in Samoa on how the agreement could be made beneficial for both countries.
A key achievement of the trade mission was the successful trial shipment of fresh watermelons from Tonga from the country’s leading agriculture firm Nishi Trading to a local Samoan supermarket chain, Farmer Joe.
Tongan businessman Minoru Nishi of Nishi Trading, which exported the watermelons, said the trade has been a win-win for all concerned. “It meant money in the pockets of small farmers, Governments, shipping carriers and agents, exporters and of course, many happy consumers who longed for Tongan watermelons. Since the success of our first container, the market is about to receive its third container and we are now planning for regular supply into Apia.”
<b>PT&I</b> NZ’s Knowledge & Research Manager Joe Fuavao, who was in Samoa during the mission, said the feedback was positive. “The success of watermelon exports from Tonga to Samoa highlighted the potential for more intraregional trade. This is coming through in our work as we receive an increasing amount of interest in exploring market opportunities in neighbouring Pacific Island countries, particularly Fiji and Papua New Guinea,” Mr Fuavao adds.
The mission has also created interest in Samoan exports to Tonga. “The delegation identified the potential for fresh watermelon and sweet potato exports while Samoa’s strength in manufactured goods attracted interest in alcoholic beverages and chips,” Mr Fuavao says. “On a recent trip to Tonga, I met with some businesses to explore the opportunity for exports from Samoa to Tonga. There was some interest in the market for quality giftware products and snack foods.”
<b>PT&I</b> assisted Nishi Trading with the development of watermelon labels and facilitated media promotion for the trade mission. Though there has been a quarantine agreement that was established between the two countries in 1999 there was not much trade. But now that the Government of Tonga has acquired a cargo ship especially for interisland trade, direct shipping between Tonga and Samoa has become possible and also cost effective.
The successful mission was a joint effort by many agencies working closely together including Tonga’s Ministry of Commerce, Tourism and Labour, PHAMA as the main supporter of the trial shipment along with ANZ Bank, several departments of the Governments of Tonga and Samoa, Farmer Joe, Nishi Trading and <b>PT&I</b>.