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Biosecurity the key to agricultural growth

Improving biosecurity will be key to ensuring the future health of Samoan agriculture and giving local businesses the opportunity to export into new markets, the Government has stressed.

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.), Lopaoo Natanielu Mua, stressed the importance of biosecurity at an event on the sidelines of the Pacific Week of Agriculture. Monday's event, held at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, was dedicated to the ongoing partnership between the Governments of Samoa and Australia for promoting the sustainable and secure development of agriculture. 

Leading agricultural regulators and representatives from 28 nations across the region are gathering in Apia this week for the summit. 

Lopaoo said that only watertight biosecurity could ensure that Samoa had a reputation for clean and green produce in international markets and to prevent local crops from being ravaged by pests or disease.

Earlier this year a ban was slapped on members of the Samoa Banana Farmers Association from exporting to New Zealand. 

“Whilst Samoa’s biosecurity systems and staff are strong we cannot do it alone," Lopaoo said.

“Regional partnership approaches [are] essential to ensure threatening pests and diseases are detected early, potential threats identified and communicated between countries within the region and responses to incursions are well resourced and regionally coordinated.”

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries said that it was a must to foster and continue to grow partnerships between our Pacific Island Countries, Australia and New Zealand and importantly the Pacific Community.

“These partnerships will ensure that our agriculture forestry systems are well protected, continue to develop and drive the economic prosperity of our countries, and our famers’ opportunities to sell their produce overseas increases," he said. 

“Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (A.C.I.A.R.) Pacific Plant Biosecurity partnership which has great potential to continue to foster collaboration between countries and share best practice in many areas of biosecurity.

“P.H.A.M.A. Plus [The Pacific Horticultural Agiricultural Market Access programme] is a long-standing Australia and New Zealand Government initiative to grow export pathways within the region in collaboration with Pacific Island Governments, farmers and exporters.”

The Minister noted a recent public-private partnership of a gathering of industry specialists in Vanuatu led to the adoption of an international standard for fermented noni juice and kava when extracted with water.

“The expertise of the private sector will ensure that the standard is practical and commercially viable for producers and exporters," he said. 

“Other Australian and New Zealand Government programmes underway within individual countries which continue to strengthen agriculture and biosecurity within the region

“All these initiatives are seeking to build partnerships and strengthen relationships, including our active participation in the development of international standards which provide the framework for trade in agriculture commodities.”

Lopaoo said that it is through these partnerships that the Pacific will be able to recognise its full potential as an agricultural producer and exporter.

“This in turn will grow our economies and increase the prosperity of our people," he said. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Talei Fidow-Moors, the principal Quarantine Officer at the M.A.F said the maintenance of biosecurity standards was critical to overseas market access. 

“With passengers and cargo clearance come the risk of importation of pests and diseases that is why we man the borders [...to] look at the vessels coming in.

“In the Pacific we often need to get funding to carry out area-wide surveillance: that is something that the countries don’t normally have, we usually depend on donor agencies or funding of some sort.

“It is important to do the surveillance because we need to know what pests are associated with our exports". 

  

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