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High cost of freight a barrier to export

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao'o Natanielu Mua, has expressed concerns about the cost of shipping exports from Samoa.

The Minister noted that shipping goods to markets in closer proximity, such as Australia and New Zealand, could be cheaper than markets such as Korea. 

He made the comments on the sidelines of the Enhancing Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in the Pacific conference during Pacific Agriculture Week, following discussions with prominent businessman, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson.

"Tagaloa was talking about the price to export a container of goods to New Zealand and Australia being very high compared to exporting and sending a container of goods to Korea," he said.

"But why is it more expensive to send containers to New Zealand than sending the same container to Korea?

"Because they can get picked up with the boats that come here and then there’s more goods going out there and there’s more containers going to NZ and Australia as well and we’re bringing in a lot of containers from N.Z. and Australia."

Lopao'o stated that the Government will be looking into the matter, saying it could be due to the lack of vessels travelling between the two destinations and Samoa.

More vessels may be encouraged to travel between the destinations, he said.

"And that’s actually true but we are going to be looking at [it] and that’s because I think right now there’s about one or two shipping companies here between those two countries," he said. 

"But they’re only using one or two boats; I think we have to encourage more boats, not necessarily more freight companies [but] more cargo vessels.

"Because if we have more vessels coming here, they can pick up more containers whether it’s going to New Zealand or Australia, but at the moment I think there are only a couple of vessels operating between the two destinations Samoa and New Zealand; and Samoa and Australia."

High export costs area classic example of the key challenges for agribusiness.

Biosecurity and Environmental Safeguard Adviser, Tanuvasa Semy Siakimotu, from the Pacific Horticultural And Agricultural Market Access Plus Program, said that the major challenge are the overseas market's biosecurity regulations:

"I guess a lot of you tend to think that export is simple as putting a few root crops together or a few a fruits in a bag and send them off to overseas markets; it is much more than that.

"Because quite often those countries have their own biosecurity requirements that we must meet, but those biosecurity requirement are necessary for all the countries, we have them for Samoa we have them for the region because it protects our borders, our industries, our livelihoods."

Biosecurity is often a challenge with the exports due to tight regulations in some markets and the need for more coherent engagement between Governments and private sector.

"But those are not the only challenges: it’s understanding the requirements and then you’re also then needed to organize your farmers to make sure they provide the right product at the right quality so you’re able to maintain exports to access to those markets," said Tanuvasa.

"So there are so many challenges, ranging from transportation to cost and even if you have not just the cost but the reliability of transportation and the availability of it.

"The processing, the packaging the transportation and the landing of your product overseas [is a challenge] because whenever the products arrive overseas, it’s got to go through the regulatory process and that’s the inspection."

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