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PRESS STATEMENT February 8, 2001

Vanuatu's agricultural sector has a huge capacity to export but the sector must develop a sustainable export regime to make any real inroads into the highly competitive Australian and New Zealand markets, according to Senior Representatives of the South Pacific Trade Commission.

Speaking in Port Vila at a workshop this week on exports, Mrs. Aivu Tauvasa and Mr. Parmesh Chand, Trade Commissioners for the South Pacific Trade Commission (Sydney and Auckland offices, respectively), said Vanuatu's agricultural businesses need to adopt a long-term approach to supplying competitive import markets.

"Exporting agricultural products involves a great deal of planning from the varying stages of production to ensure a consistent and high standard of product, and reliable and efficient delivery of that product," Mrs. Tauvasa said. "The safe packaging and storing, and meeting the quarantine and customs standards of the import market.

"Obviously, Australia and New Zealand are going to maintain stringent import standards and therefore it is up to the Island countries in the region to improve their level of export standards," she said.

Mr. Chand said: "New Zealand is a growing market for Vanuatu's exports, fresh produce in particular. Vanuatu's exports to New Zealand increased by 24%, between 1998 and 1999, to more than NZ$750,000. Products which are exported are timber, pearls, hides and skin, stamps, cocoa beans and handicrafts.

"There is potential for further growth in exports to NZ, particularly if ginger and beef begin to be exported to this market. We are working very hard to create openings for these products," he said.

The Trade Commissioners were in Port Vila sponsoring an Export Planning Workshop targeted at Vanuatu's Agriculture sector. Approximately 25 nationals participated in the three-day workshop. The Workshop focused on the Australian and New Zealand markets and is part of a new initiative under the Sydney office's five-year strategic plan, titled the Business Export Australia Program (BEAP).

BEAP is responsible for identifying 'export capable' enterprises in the Forum Island Countries (FICs) and assisting these in their endeavors to initially penetrate or expand sales in the Australian import market. The Program will be implemented collaboratively with pre-selected 'agents/correspondents' from each FIC export promotion agency. The Program will also provide the necessary training or up-skilling of the agents/correspondents to ensure that it is sustainable.

"Over the past decade the level of Australian and New Zealand investment in Vanuatu has been negligible despite an increasingly outward looking investment climate from these two countries," Mrs. Tauvasa said. "However, the World Bank and other international agencies, including the South Pacific Forum Secretariat believe that Australia will be the single largest investors in the Pacific Islands over the next ten to 15 years," she said.

Another initiative under the Strategic Plan is the Pacific Investment Program (PIP). PIP is designed specifically to assist Vanuatu and other Forum Island Countries in identifying, documenting and promoting 'market' driven, as opposed to supply driven, projects to potential Australian investors.

Australia-Vanuatu relations Australia represents a negligible share of Vanuatu's export destinations, which is dominated by Japan (31.2%), Belgium (22.9%) and Germany (14.3%). In contrast as an import source, Australia has a 22% share of Vanuatu's imports, second only to the USA.

In 1999-2000, Australia imported $A1 million worth of products from Vanuatu, ranking 135th in Australia's import of goods by country. Australia's imports from Vanuatu comprised: wood, simply worked A$139,000; fresh vegetables A$79,000; coffee and coffee substitutes A$65,000; seafood A$54,000; artwork collectors pieces, antiques A$51,000.

In terms of aid, Australia is expected to provide A$18.1 million in aid to Vanuatu between 2000-01. This assistance largely focuses on addressing needs identified under Vanuatu's Comprehensive Reform Program Action Plan, aimed at providing a more effective and efficient public sectors, stronger fiscal and economic management, and improvement to the legislative framework and legal system.

NOTE: NZ$ 1.00 = US$ 0.43468 and A$ 1.00 = U.S.$ 0.53512 on February 9, 2001.

For further information please contact: Sally Gibson Coordinator, Public Relations and Information Program (PRIP) Tel: 612 9 283 5933 Fax: 612 9 283 5944

E-mail: sallyg@sptc.gov.au 

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