Primary industries are the backbone of many Pacific Island countries but there is a great need for more up-to-date information on trade in the region to better understand and grow national economies.
These were the sentiments expressed by Fiji’s Trade Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Navitalai Tuivuniwai, at the launch of a comprehensive Pacific Islands Trade Report 2010-2014 alongside the European Union Ambassador for the Pacific, Andrew Jacobs, and Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, in Suva, Fiji.
“To date there is very little readily available information on trade statistics in the Pacific region and this report released by the Pacific Community and the European Union goes a long way to help fill that gap,” Mr Tuivuniwai said.
“This is a valuable tool as Pacific Island governments, donor agencies and businesses now have access to standardised information on the region’s main primary sector export products, the biggest markets for these products and relative trading status of each country,” he said.
The report was produced by the EU-funded Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) project which is implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC).
Drawing on data released in 2015 from the International Trade Centre, the report provides a snapshot of trade in primary sector goods between Pacific Island countries and the rest of the world, with Australia and New Zealand, and between the Pacific Island nations themselves.
It shows that Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji share close to 90 percent of total revenue earned by the Pacific Islands region for the export of primary products worldwide.
In 2014, the total value of primary sector exports from the Pacific amounted to USD 3.97 billion of which Papua New Guinea earned a significant USD 2.2 billion, followed by Solomon Islands (USD 659.8 million) and Fiji (USD 637.2 million).
“I’m convinced that this report will be a useful tool for the Pacific business community which will have access to an easy-to-read overview of regional trade flows and growth trends,” Ambassador Jacobs said.
“Obtaining reliable statistical data in the Pacific is a major challenge, and the European Union has been supporting several regional partners, such as the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, Pacific Community and Oceania Customs Organisation to help them to collect and analyse statistical data.
“Accurate trade statistics are essential both for making informed public policy choices and for successful business investment decisions. For development partners as well, trade statistics are important data sources for monitoring and evaluating trade-related assistance projects,” Ambassador Jacobs added.
The report shows that within the Pacific region’s primary sector, the products showing good potential are fish, wood, cocoa, virgin coconut oil and root crops.
“Agriculture, forestry and fisheries provide an important revenue source for many of our region’s farmers, fishers and enterprises. That’s why SPC continues to utilise its technical and scientific expertise to strengthen sustainable management of natural resources, enabling Pacific people to benefit from sustainable economic development,” Dr Tukuitonga said.
Fiji was the only Pacific Island nation that exported in significant quantities to other Pacific Island countries, accounting for 96 percent of all intra-regional exports.
The 15 Pacific Island countries highlighted in the Pacific Islands Trade 2010-2014 report are Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
With support from the European Union over the past four years, the IACT project has been actively assisting 42 enterprises to grow their businesses and create job opportunities across the region.