Islands’ quarantine heads set up new collaborative forum


A low-profile meeting held in Fiji last week may herald a new era for agricultural trade across the Pacific. The meeting brought together the Heads of Quarantine of Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, and established a new forum for collaboration on technical issues currently limiting trade.<!--more-->

[caption id="attachment_4094" align="aligncenter" width="250" caption="Photo caption: Senior quarantine staff from Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu with members of the PHAMA team in Fiji last week. Photo: PHAMA."]<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-4094" title="PHAMA - 2" src="" alt="" width="250" height="170" /></a>[/caption]
<p style="text-align: justify;">Elvis Silvestrini, Fiji’s Head of Quarantine and inaugural Chair of the new group said, “We’re moving into a new phase, one based on cooperation. We all want profitable and safe trade between Pacific Island countries, and also with our bigger trading partners. We need to work together to make that happen.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The meeting also included key players from the private sector in each country, who brought a critical commercial view to the discussions, as well as expert trade advisors from Australia and New Zealand. The meeting was organised by PHAMA – the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access program – an AusAID-funded program managed by URS–Kalang that provides practical assistance to support regional trade.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Rob Duthie, Market Access Specialist with PHAMA said, “There are a number of key issues that come up again and again. We now have a forum for addressing these together and coming up with mutually acceptable solutions.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The forum agreed that harmonisation of procedures and setting regional standards are priorities. As a first step, the countries agreed to review and share their existing bilateral trade and quarantine agreements. “We’re aiming for transparent agreements based on sound and standardised procedures, for example for dealing with pests,” Mr Silvestrini said. “It’s about building trust around biosafety issues, so that we can trade with confidence in the region and beyond.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Private sector delegates were unanimous that the meeting represented a leap forward for trade in the region. Tolo Iosefa, representing the farmers of Samoa said, “It was a very fruitful meeting. I was expecting it to be competitive, but instead we learned how we need to collaborate to be successful in reaching the markets.”</p>

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