Ministry host workshop to review international plant protection

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Quarantine Division hosted a virtual regional workshop last Friday to review the draft International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures.

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Samoa hosted the virtual regional workshop at the Ministry’s quarantine conference room as part of a collaboration with the Pacific Community, the Secretariat of the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation [PPPO] and the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention [IPPC].

The senior management of the M.A.F. Quarantine Division attended the official opening to also show support for the International Year of Plant Health.

M.A.F. Chief Executive Officer, Tilafono David Hunter, gave the opening address and highlighted the importance of agriculture as a major contributor to the economies of small Pacific Island nations.

He said during the global pandemic, Pacific states cannot continue to rely on income from the tourism and hospitality sector and agriculture will play a critical part in the economic recovery plans of island nations.

“One of the potential consequences of this global pandemic is the disruption in international trade compromising our access to a stable supply of imported food for our food security, since some of the food items we have been relying on cannot be grown on our islands due our different agro-climatic conditions,” he said. 

“Therefore, ensuring a stable supply of fresh and nutritious food and protecting our crops from pests and diseases are now more important than ever.  

“This COVID-19 environment is showing us all that adopting preventative measures is essential to protect our small fragile islands, from the intrusion and spread of devastating human diseases, and this applies not only to the health of humans, but also to the health of animals and plants, especially those that we rely on for our food security.”

Additionally, Tilafono said the challenges of climate change cannot be ignored and would require a global response, especially for the region where its effects remain an “acute threat” to island states.

“For many of our Pacific nations, the effects of climate change are an acute threat. Climate Change coupled with the dramatic increase in international trade, has amplified the risks of introducing invasive plant pests and diseases into our islands, and may become established on our shores permanently. 

“Even now, we are already seeing an increase in the introduction of pests and diseases, and no country on its own can limit their spread. Preventing, managing and eliminating biosecurity threats, is therefore, vital to maintain and advance our economic and social wellbeing. 

“And this requires a strong integrated systems approach that is owned and managed by all the people: producers, public, consumers, and us officials.”

Tilafono emphasised that prevention, when it comes to combating pests and diseases affecting plants, should have an international platform as it requires collaboration between various countries.

“Prevention is very much an international undertaking that requires the collaboration of all countries, and collectively, we can strengthen the national, regional and international resolve to combat the pests and diseases affecting plant health.

“Prevention must be at the heart of plant health considerations. Despite being accustomed to dealing with indigenous pests and diseases, the exotic pests and diseases, the ones that have not yet arrived on our shores, are of grave concern to us all, because they may have potentially devastating impacts when introduced into new ecosystems. 

“It is precisely those pests and diseases whose spread we must collaborate to prevent. By preventing the introduction of such pests, we not only protect our agriculture and forestry resources, but also our valuable biodiversity, and of course, our economies and livelihoods.”

Rather than spending what Tilafono described as “a fortune on combating introduced pests and diseases”, he said a fraction of the funding should be used to establish a proper integrated systems approach to prevent their introduction in the first place.

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