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Fijian horticulture exports expanding, but facing market access barriers

09 August 2011

According to press reports, Fijian farmers look set to increase papaya exports from F$700,000 (€280,000) to F$6,000,000 (€2.4m) in 2011. In 2010 some 140 tonnes of papaya were exported, while from January to May 2011 already 285 tonnes had been exported. Australia is currently the main export market, but new markets are also being targeted in Hong Kong, Japan and even Germany.

Speaking at the Pacific Regional Business Conference, Michael Brown, CEO of Nature’s Way Cooperative, said that ‘while realistic markets were identified, access to these markets [was] denied’, and lack of market access was an obstacle to the expansion of Fiji’s horticultural exports. It was reported that ‘issues with access submissions, unrealistic policies and political interference played a huge part in restricting access for local producers and growers to these markets.’

For example, it was noted that it took eight years before clearance was granted for papaya exports to Australia. Michael Brown argued that ‘unrealistic policies like Australia's one product per country policy for market access approval for Pacific Islands means it takes two lifetimes to get approval for all the products we have a market for.’ He added that ‘unrealistic standards with stringent treatment requirements and inspection protocols cause unnecessary costs to local exporters’. These problems are held to be compounded by political lobbying from Australian producer groups.

Editorial comment

Fiji’s papaya exporters, many of whom are members of the Nature’s Way Cooperative (NWC), face the classical trade situation where there is market access but the potential to benefit from such market access is undermined by the application of non-tariff barriers to trade (NTBs) in the import markets – in this case, Australia and New Zealand. Duty-free and quota-free access to these two markets is provided for under the preferential and non-reciprocal South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation (SPARTECA), which dates back to 1981.

The trade barriers, in most cases, relate to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures – quarantine and food safety. The onus for ensuring compliance with SPS requirements falls in the first instance on the producers, processors and exporters involved in the trade and in the second on the ‘competent authority’ in the exporting country. In the case of papaya exports from Fiji, NWC ensures producer compliance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements. It also ensures compliance with the mandatory High Temperature Forced Air (HTFA) treatment for fruit-fly on products to be exported.

However approval for the initial import of new products subject to these SPS requirements lies with the authorities of the importing country. Fijian exporters see the management of this process in Australia as overly bureaucratic and interventionist, bordering on delaying tactics in the interest of domestic Australian producers (i.e. the use of SPS requirements as a non-tariff barrier to trade). This issue needs to be addressed by the Australian authorities in order to accelerate the approval process.

The AusAID-funded Pacific Horticultural & Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Programme has been established to address these problems. The PHAMA, established to assist PICs and territories, has four components: (i) development and processing of market access submissions; (ii) implementation of market access requirements; (iii) research and development; and (iv) regional support. In an era of duty-free, quota-free access for Pacific ACP (PACP) countries to a growing number of markets, these non-tariff issues now represent critical issues if trade is to be promoted in products where PACP countries can develop exports. Moves towards mutual recognition of approval processes by OECD and advanced developing countries could assist PACP countries in diversifying their exports across a range of potential markets (see Agritrade article ‘ Mutual recognition of organic standards to reduce costs on EU–Canada trade’, August 2011).


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