Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Pacific islands to increase agriculture data collection

Apia, Samoa, 15 Dec 2010 -- Supported by conclusions from a new data scoping report, Pacific Island Countries plan to expand data collection on agriculture production, domestic food marketing and agriculture trade to provide decision-makers with actionable information that can be used to strengthen food security across the Pacific islands.

Food security in the Pacific has been threatened for decades. Declining investment, climate change and deterioration of land and water for agriculture and fisheries have eroded the region’s capacity to sustain local food production. A growing reliance on food imports has heightened island susceptibility to food and fuel price volatility. Still, island agriculture not only provides food for most islanders, it is their main source of income and also makes up the bulk of island exports.

The Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) funded the study called: Agriculture Data — Report on a Scoping Study in Six Pacific Island Countries.

According to the report, public access to general statistical information in Pacific Island Countries has steadily improved in recent years with the development of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Pacific Regional Information System (SPC/PRISM) and a number of national websites. But, the study also found that “these sites currently have limited information on basic agriculture statistics.”

The decisions that Pacific islanders make about their agriculture sector could mean the difference between economic growth and social stability, or growing poverty and social unrest. The data scoping report says that a solid database on the agriculture sector would go a long way towards helping policy-makers and private sector agro-business leaders make informed decisions that would improve food security.

From May to November 2010 the data scoping mission visited six Pacific Island Countries (Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu) to assess the capacity of the countries to produce, report and use data that is commonly needed to monitor national trends in agricultural production and to understand the role of the domestic agriculture sector, including local food and labour markets.

An expert consultation reviewed the data scoping report on 22-23 October 2010 in Nadi, Fiji and called for enhanced evidence-based decision making for sustainable agriculture development in the Pacific islands. The group urged leaders to think about policy priorities and issues to help identify key data needs.

From the government perspective, improved data availability implies value being realized through improved policy decisions, better monitoring of current policies and programmes, and improved public and private investment.

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Press release issued by the FAO Subregional Office for the Pacific. For more information contact Vili Fuavao, FAO Subregional Representative for the Pacific Islands, email or telephone +685 22127 / 26903 / 20710

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