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Funds meant to foster agricultural exports in the region

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept 22, 2008) - A FJ$9.3 million [US$6 million] aid package will help increase agricultural trade as a way of reducing trade deficits and alleviating poverty among Pacific Island countries.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) will receive the money from the European Union to help agricultural and forestry product exports over a five-year period.

SPC’s Land Resource Division was asked in 2006 to submit a proposal to the EU to fund a pilot project on Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT).

FACT team leader Dr. Lex Thomson said the project could help reduce urban drift. "Unlike previous SPC projects, FACT is designed to provide support to private sector enterprises within the existing commercial farming and forestry sector," he said.

He said the aim was to contribute to the integration of the 14 Pacific ACP countries into the regional and global economy.

"This approach complements the strategy adopted by the EU’s Pacific Regional Indicative Program to facilitate regional economic integration, both by developing Pacific ACP countries’ human resources and expanding their economies through increasing the volume and range of their exports," Thomson said.

"It also complements the objectives of the Pacific Plan to boost economic growth through regional integration."

Thomson said the project would be implemented in several steps:

"A major supporting objective of the project will be to work towards improving mutual understanding of the respective roles of the private and government sector in advancing agricultural and forestry trade," he said.

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