FIJI FACES AGRICULTURAL LOSSES DUE TO U.S. SHIPPING RESTRICTIONS

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HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (February 23, 1999 - PIDP/CPIS/Hulsen)---Fiji faces the loss of an estimated $1 million a year in revenue and 500 jobs if U.S. restrictions on certain fruits and vegetables that transit Hawai‘i or the West Coast on their way to Canada are not lifted.

Graeme Thorpe, Managing Director of the Balthan International (Fiji) Limited import-export firm in Suva, said the agricultural products --papaya, mango, grapefruit, jack fruit and eggplant-- can host fruit flies and therefore currently are banned from import into the United States and its territories, but not in Canada.

Thorpe told officials attending the United States - Pacific Island Nations Joint Commercial Commission (JCC) meeting in Honolulu Tuesday that as a result of the U.S. transit restriction, produce wanted by some 70,000 Fijians now living in Vancouver, Canada cannot be imported.

The Fiji exporter requested that U.S. agricultural officials consider approving Fiji's use of a high temperature forced air treatment system developed in Hawai‘i to eliminate any threat of fruit fly contamination.

Glen Hinsdale, the Acting Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, who also participated in the JCC meeting, said the department is looking into various fruit fly safeguards, including the possible use of shipping containers that are totally sealed but still do not damage the produce.

Fiji's Thorpe said fruits and vegetables previously were air shipped from Fiji to Korea and then on to Canada without restriction, but a reduction in Korean flights due to the Asian economic crisis now makes shipments through Seoul to Vancouver uneconomical.

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