51. At the invitation of the Chair, the Sub-Regional Representative introduced this agenda item by briefing the meeting on the Regional Programme for Food Security (RPFS) and stated that the project currently being implemented (GTFS/RAS/198/ITA) was part of the RPFS and was being funded from the contribution of the Italian Government to the FAO Trust Fund, with a total value of US$4.5 million. He then drew the attention to the fact that there were two papers - SWPM/CKI/4.1(Rev1) and SWPM/CKI/4.1(a) - being tabled before the meeting under this particular agenda item. He explained that the two documents respectively provided a brief report on the status of the implementation of the Italian-funded project and the SSC programme which was also an integral part of the RPFS. He then invited the Regional Project Coordinator to provide a brief presentation on the main issues raised in the first paper.
52. The Regional Project Coordinator, Mr Bismarck Crawley explained that the project comprised two major components and was designed to contribute to the stabilization of food security in the Forum Island Countries (FICs) at both national and household levels. Component 1 was focusing on national level interventions aimed at improving production and food security and enhancing the income generating activities and the nutrition status of the people while Component 2 focused on strengthening and building regional and national capacity on trade facilitation and on agricultural policies. He stated that since project inception in May 2004, activities under Component I had been primarily devoted to preparations and review of country proposals as well as facilitating and monitoring the progress of projects already approved for implementation.
53. He advised that the Regional Project Management Unit (RPMU) had undertaken missions to all the 14 participating countries and further follow-up visits were made to three countries either to facilitate project implementation or finalize project proposals. He advised that 14 projects had already been approved and were currently being implemented in 11 countries. Projects for the remaining three countries were being finalized and these were anticipated to be ready for implementation with the next few weeks.
54. The Regional Project Coordinator stated that a total of 28 projects had been received including those already under implementation, with a total value of approximately US$1.68 million. He added that while more than 60 per cent of the funds allocated for Component I of the project had already been committed for the funding of national projects, delivery was currently slow. However, it was anticipated that delivery would substantially improve by the end of the year since more than 50 per cent of the project costs were mainly for the procurement of equipment, materials and supplies.
55. In regards to Component 2, the Regional Project Coordinator advised that although some preparatory work had been undertaken, project activities were scheduled to commence around the third quarter of 2005. This would involve a number of studies including a commodity pathway study targeting 4 - 5 commodities of economic significance to the region, and a number of regional training courses.
56. The Regional Project Coordinator provided a schematic diagram showing the management set-up of the project and how it linked to other components such as the SSC programme and to the wider RPFS. He stated that national project steering committees had been set up and national project coordinators had been appointed in all the fourteen countries. As well, the Regional Project Steering Committee (RPSC) had been established and had met in June 2004. He added that the RPSC was not required to meet on a fixed interval but on a needs basis.
57. In reference to the achievements, challenges and constraints faced in the implementation of the project, the Regional Project Coordinator stated the fact that the design of the regional project was such that it involved the development of national projects for fourteen countries was in itself a major constraint and the fact that 14 national projects had commenced implementation in 11 countries was a major achievement. Other challenges and constraints encountered included operational issues; limited human resource capacity in many countries particularly in the area of project formulation and design; and the fact that some countries had or were currently undergoing reforms resulting in changes in financial and management procedures and practices.
58. The Regional Project Coordinator concluded by acknowledging the support and cooperation of the countries and the valuable assistance provided by members of the FAO Task Force Team assigned to provide technical guidance and advice on the project, as well and the technical input and advice of the technical officers of SAPA.
59. At the invitation of the Sub-Regional Representative, the Country Project Officer, Mr Daniele Salvini provided a brief presentation on paper SWPM/CKI/4.1(a) which outlined the status of the recruitment of the SSC technicians and experts. He explained that the SSC framework was one of the innovative tools adopted by FAO to facilitate the successful implementation of one of its global initiative known as the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS). The framework allowed developing countries to benefit from the experience and expertise of more advanced developing countries through the provision of experts for up to two years to work in the implementation of food security programmes in the recipient countries. Established under a tripartite agreement, the SSC arrangements involved a commitment by the collaborating country to make available experts and technicians to travel and work in the recipient country; a willingness on the part of the recipient country to commit funds to pay for the monthly allowance of each SSC member, their accommodation and internal travel costs; and FAO providing funds for the international travel costs as well as for subsistence and installation allowances of the SSC experts.
60. Currently, agreements had been signed with the Government of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and with the Government of the Philippines to provide a total of 56 technicians and eight regional experts. Thus, there would be four technicians in each country and the 4 regional experts from each of the two collaborating countries would provide direct supervision of the work of their technicians and carry out backstopping missions where necessary. He added that the regional experts from the PRC were being stationed in Samoa, however, a decision had yet to be made as to where the regional experts from the Philippines will be located. Further, the regional experts would provide the management and coordination link between the SSC technicians and FAO and the Regional Project Management Unit.
61. The Country Project Officer stated that the decision to recruit SSC experts and technicians was based on the consideration that about 70 per cent of the $4.5 million contribution from the Government of Italy was directed at national-based projects and activities and the fact that some countries would be encountering difficulties in terms of its adsorptive and technical capacity to implement these projects and activities. He advised that to facilitate the fielding of the SSC experts and technicians, and to comply with the commitments made under the tripartite agreements, FAO had approved 14 national and one regional TCP projects with a total cost of more than US$2.8 million to cover its own commitment as well as the commitment of recipient countries relating to the monthly allowance for SSC officers.
62. The Country Project Officer advised that there had been some initial administrative difficulties encountered in relation to the recruitment of the SSC experts and technicians, however, some progress had been achieved. So far a total of 13 SSC officers had been fielded and approximately the same number was likely to be in post soon. Some of the difficulties experienced included the fact that it took some time for the tripartite agreements to be signed by all parties; the time involved in the recruitment process; and the time taken to get the necessary clearance for the SSC officers from recipient countries. He stressed that in order not to jeopardize the role and significance of this component, the remaining technicians and experts needed to be cleared by FAO and the recipient Governments within the month of June in order to ensure their fielding by July at the latest. He also reiterated that it was essential for the recipient countries to make the necessary efforts to facilitate the smooth and quick integration of the technicians into their structure and to ensure that they were assigned to field activities related to the implementation of the national-based projects linked to the food security programme.
63. The Minister from Vanuatu thanked the two paper presenters and expressed appreciation to FAO for the support and assistance provided under project GTFS/RAS/198/ITA. He stated his endorsement of the recommendations outlined in paper SWPM/CKI/4.1(Rev1). The Minister also thanked the Government of Italy for the financial support provided for the RPFS programme. He then highlighted the difficulties faced in regard to the implementation of the project at the regional and country levels. He observed that given the diversity of the areas and sectors covered, and the number of countries involved, such challenges would seem inevitable. At the country level, the Minister particularly pointed to the inability of the technicians to speak and communicate in the English language, and suggested that this should be taken into consideration during the recruitment process. He stated that ensuring food security was a priority for Vanuatu and that considerable government resources and donor assistance were being tailored to this area. He added that Vanuatu currently needed assistance to review its national agriculture development policy and strategy to ensure that this priority objective was being addressed. The Minister supported the call for a more strategic approach to project implementation, adding that on its part, Vanuatu would work to improve cooperation between line agencies, provide additional resources and ensure that the RPMU was informed of implementation by the national project steering committee.
64. The Minister from Niue thanked the presenters and FAO for the progress report on the implementation of the regional project. He briefed the meeting on the status of agriculture development in Niue and some of the programmes currently being implemented aimed at achieving food security for the country. The Minister made special reference to the Niue Young Farmers project and acknowledged the assistance and support of the Government of New Zealand. He advised that the Young Farmers project focused on two key areas namely food production and livestock development and the projects being submitted for funding under the Italian-funded project were complementary to the activities of this country initiative.
65. The Minister also expressed support for the point raised earlier by other countries on the need to provide a structured induction and training programme for the SSC experts and technicians. He added that this was considered necessary in order to reduce the culture gap and language barrier.
66. The Minister from Kiribati after thanking FAO for the informative presentation recalled the decision made at the 5th Ministers meeting in 2003 in Fiji for the project to focus on production and stated that this was in line with the strategic priorities of Kiribati. He underlined the importance of improving production of local food in order to improve nutrition status of the population, reduce food import and improve incomes of the rural community. He urged FAO to take the necessary steps to improve the delivery of the regional project and the recruitment of the SSC technicians.
67. The Minister from Nauru expressed appreciation to FAO and to the Italian Government for the assistance provided under the regional programme for food security and reiterated the need for speedy implementation of the project activities in view of the fact that less than two years was remaining before its closure. He stated that Nauru had been working closely with the Regional Project Management Unit on its project proposal and was hopeful that implementation would commence soon.
68. The Representative from Tonga expressed gratitude to the Italian Government for the financial contributions to the regional project from which Tonga had benefited immensely. He advised that one of the projects proposed by Tonga was on sheep farming and although it had been approved for some time, implementation was delayed due to difficulties relating to shipping and quarantine requirements and as a result the importation of the prescribed breed from Fiji had fallen behind schedule. He also expressed the view that the processes used to access project funds and for purchase of equipment and materials were too long and time consuming and had caused delays in project implementation.
69. The Representative stated that although there had been delays in the recruitment of the SSC technicians from the PRC, he was pleased to advise that three had now arrived safely and were already involved in implementation activities. He added however that although one of the technicians already on board was in the area of water management, Tongas proposal for water harvesting and irrigation had yet to be approved. He requested for the recruitment of the fourth technician to be expedited to assist with the implementation of fisheries development activities.
70. The Minister from Marshall Islands expressed support for the provision of training and an orientation programme for the SSC technicians as a way of improving communication. He suggested that a programme similar to that provided for the US Peace Corps Volunteers should be developed for the SSC technicians, which should focus on language and culture of their respective country of assignment.
71. The Representative from Australia, Mr David Ingham, Manager FAO and Rest of the World of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry requested further clarification on the timing and type of training proposed under Component 2 of the regional project. In response, it was advised that a training focusing on food regulation and international trade was being proposed to be held in the third quarter of the year. In addition, other training workshops were being proposed to be conducted but only after the supply chain studies had been completed.
72. The Sub-Regional Representative, in response to issues raised by countries, stated that FAO had taken note of the difficulties with regards to the recruitment of the SSC technicians and that efforts will be made to improve the situation. He added that the delay in the recruitment of SSC experts and technicians was due to a host of factors including some practical difficulties encountered within FAO, the collaborating countries and even by the countries themselves.
73. On the issue of three quotes from suppliers, the Sub-Regional Representative pointed out that FAO was an international organization and therefore had rules and processes that were applied to all its member countries indiscriminately. He clarified that the three-quote requirement was a standard procedure of FAO. However, where it was not possible to obtain three quotations due to the fact that there were not that many suppliers, this needed to be communicated to FAO to justify the derogation of the rules
74. The Chair acknowledged the presence of the Representative of the Government of Italy, and invited her to address the meeting.
75. The Representative of the Government of Italy, HE Dr Liana Marolla, Ambassador to the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu after conveying the well wishes of her government to the Chair, the Director-General and to the meeting, stated that Italy was looking with increasing interest to the Pacific region with a special attention to the problems related to the food security of the island countries. She advised that she had the opportunity to personally visit some of the projects funded by Italy in support of the RPFS and had noted the strong commitment of the participating countries. She then informed the meeting that Italy was open to consider a possible expansion of the existing programme and to this end it was very important that political contacts were maintained on a more regular basis.
76. She referred to the Pacific Islands Forum Meeting scheduled to be held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea later in the year, and advised that Italy was looking at the possibility of attending this meeting as observer. She stressed the link between the Regional Programme for Food Security and the broader objective of sustainable development that would bring harmony to all the people and the attainment of democracy and peace in the world.
77. The Ambassador concluded by stating that Italy will closely monitor and evaluate the results of the RPFS with the objective of verifying the possibility of further assistance to expanding and diversifying the programme. She reaffirmed the commitment of Italy at the international and multilateral levels, including the WTO and UNO, and for a reform that would ensure a broader participation of all the countries in the different agencies, committees and in the Security Council of the UN.
78. After further discussion, the Ministers noted with gratitude the generous contribution of the Government of Italy and expressed appreciation for its acceptance of the invitation to attend the meeting. In view of its increasing interest in the region, the ongoing implementation of the regional project and the likelihood of its further contributions for an expansion of the existing programme, Ministers welcomed the continued participation of Italy in future meetings. They also noted with appreciation the valuable collaboration provided by the Governments of the PRC and the Philippines, and expressed their gratitude to FAO for the financial assistance provided to facilitate the fulfilment of obligations of the countries to the SSC Agreement. Furthermore, in reaffirming commitment to enhancing food security in the region, Ministers:
(i) agreed to ensure their respective National Project Steering Committees continue to work closely with the Regional Project Management Unit in supporting and facilitating the implementation of all the activities under the Italian-funded regional project.
(ii) made a commitment to take full advantage of the technical support provided under the SSC arrangement to implement planned activities of the regional project, and to assist with national development efforts.
(iii) noted that considerable limitations had been met in language barriers particularly with the technicians under the SSC from the Peoples Republic of China and also in cultural differences and strongly recommended to FAO the need for cultural and language training and orientation prior to their placement in countries.
(iv) recognized that food security was multi-dimensional in nature and agreed to encourage the active participation and involvement of other relevant ministries in the efforts to improve food security at both the national and household levels.
(v) emphasized the need for the urgent mobilization of the remaining technicians and experts under the SSC arrangement.
(vi) agreed to take the necessary measures to ensure the full integration of the SSC technicians into the structure and operational set-up of their respective ministries responsible for agriculture.
79. In response to an invitation from the Chair, the Sub-Regional Representative drew the attention of the meeting to document SWPM/CKI/4.2 and explained that it had been prepared with the objective of highlighting some of the major policy assistance activities undertaken in the past two years, the challenges and constraints faced as well as priority areas for the future. He then invited the SAPA Policy Officer to briefly present the paper.
80. The Policy Officer, Mr Manase Felemi, after providing an account of the work undertaken by the SAPA Policy Assistance Unit over the past years, highlighted some of the issues, challenges and constraints encountered. He stated that a major challenge was the need to ensure assistance was in line with countries priorities particularly in view of the apparent lack of a clear and agreed framework for identifying country priorities. He also stated that although FAO had assisted countries in reviewing their National Strategies for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in 2002/03, there was still a need to further review these national strategies to reflect national policies and strategies towards fulfilment of international commitments such as those under the Millennium Declaration, the World Food Summit and the World Food Summit: five years later.
81. One of the major constraints highlighted by the Policy Officer was the lack of national capacity in policy analysis, formulation and planning and the lack of analytical skills and experience in the area of policy analysis and planning. He added that in some countries, there was no dedicated unit for economic planning and policy analysis for agriculture while in other countries this was part of the functions of the central/economic planning office with very little involvement of Agriculture.
82. The Policy Officer also highlighted FAO's comparative strengths in the area of Policy Assistance which included the ability to take a global view of problems and identify solutions; to work alongside national government and provide guidance on global issues; and building of national capacities through engagement of national consultants for implementation of projects. He concluded by discussing some of the potential areas for further policy work, based on identified comparative advantages of the organization. Apart from the ongoing provision of training in the area of project planning, formulation and analysis the Policy Officer recommended more analytical/diagnostic studies from which more specific policy recommendations could be developed to guide the development of agriculture in the region. He added that one important area for such a study was on the impact of climate variability on agriculture.
83. He also considered that there was a need for assessment of national capacities to implement international and regional agreements relating to agriculture, in order to identify constraints encountered and build up capacity of countries to critically assess the implications of international and/or regional agreements before decisions were made. Finally, he advised that in view of the apparent lack of a clear process/framework for identifying country priorities, SAPA was currently working on developing such a framework, which would help guide FAO in ensuring that its interventions and assistance were more focused and in line with countries priority needs. He then recommended for the meeting to consider and endorse the development of such a framework.
84. The Minister from Nauru thanked the Policy Officer for the presentation and confirmed that Nauru had benefited from the work provided by the SAPA Policy Assistance Unit. This was in the form of formulating of a new organizational structure for a strengthened Division within the Department of Island Development and Industry, to be responsible for the development of agriculture. He advised that the structure proposed by the Policy Officer had been endorsed by Cabinet, and was currently being implemented through the appointment of the Head of Division and the reshuffling of staff in line with the new functions and responsibilities of the Division.
85. The Representative from Tonga also expressed his appreciation to the Policy Officer for the presentation and to FAO for the continued support and assistance to the development of the agriculture sector in Tonga. He stated that Tonga was in need of assistance for the formulation of its National Agriculture Policy.
86. The Minister from Solomon Islands also acknowledged the assistance provided by FAO in the area of agriculture policy. He highlighted the assistance provided in developing a proposal targeted at reviewing current policies and the formulation of a National Agriculture Development Plan.
87. The Minister from New Zealand thanked the Policy Officer for the presentation and reported that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat was planning to do a major work on land tenure in the Pacific region, to assess its impact on agriculture development. He then suggested for close coordination and collaboration in this area given the significance of land and land tenure issues and their effect and impact on agriculture production and development in the Pacific region.
88. The Representative from the Cook Islands thanked the Policy Officer for the presentation and also for FAOs support to policy assistance work in the region. The Representative highlighted the need for pooling of resources by international and regional organizations when working with countries and when undertaking work and activities in the same area, in order to maximize best use of limited resources and to enhance coordination, collaboration and cooperation amongst donor organizations. He then sought further advice on the kinds of collaboration arrangements and activities that FAO had with the Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC). In response, it was advised that FAO and SPC had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which both agencies had agreed to cooperate and collaborate in a number of areas relating to development of agriculture in the region. In line with this MOU, collaborative initiatives and activities had been implemented in the area of biosecurity and plant protection, trade facilitation, rural development and marketing.
89. The Representative from Papua New Guinea thanked FAO for its support to the development of the agriculture sector in PNG, and called for stronger work programme partnership between FAO and member countries, particularly in the area of policy development. He noted that while there were ongoing collaborative programmes in the area of biosecurity particularly in the development of appropriate legislation to support biosecurity measures taken at the national level, PNG was of the view that policies regarding biosecurity should be first formulated and clearly articulated before appropriate legislation were developed. In this way, policies on biosecurity would help direct and guide the drafting of legislation.
90. The Representative from Fiji thanked the Policy Officer for his presentation and expressed appreciation for FAO assistance to Fiji in the area of Policy Support. He stated that the lack of capacity in policy analysis and planning had been highlighted in the past and more emphasis should be placed on this critical area. He stated that Fiji supported the recommendation for future work to include assessment of capacities of PICs to implement International and Regional Agreements relating to agriculture but added that priority should be accorded to countries that were already members of the WTO as they were currently experiencing implementation problems with regards to their international commitments under WTO.
91. The Chair drew the attention to some of the key issues and recommendations outlined in the discussion paper provided, and invited the Ministers to consider and make a decision on the recommendations outlined therein. After further discussion, the Meeting approved the following recommendations:
(i) That FAO continue to assist Pacific island member countries in building national capacities through the provision of training in policy analysis and planning;
(ii) That more analytical studies be conducted within the agricultural sub-sectors to facilitate the development of more specific policy recommendations, and that priority attention be given to the following specific issues:
Impact of climate variability on agriculture and food security in the Pacific; and
Assessment of capacities of Pacific island member countries to implement international and regional agreements relating to agriculture;
(iii) That the need to develop a framework for the identification of national priorities to guide the development of field programmes and ensuring that FAO assistance is targeted at the priority needs of member countries be endorsed; and
(iv) That FAO assist member countries in reviewing their national strategies for sustainable agriculture and food security to reflect commitments to fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
92. At the invitation of the Chair, the Sub-Regional Representative drew the attention of the meeting to document SWPM/CKI/4.3, which looked at some of the issues and challenges to biosecurity as a result of development and changes at the global level and how such changes had affected the region. He then invited the Plant Protection Officer to provide a brief presentation on the key issues raised in the paper.
93. The Plant Protection Officer, Dr Matairangi Purea provided a brief outline of the recent development at the international front and their implications on the role of biosecurity and plant protection in the region. He stated that developments in the area of transport and communications had enabled the peoples of the world to move around more freely, widely and more regularly. In addition, there had been a significant increase in the proportion of the travelling population originating from the developing world, particularly from countries that had prospered significantly over the past two decades. Furthermore, there had been an increase in the trafficking of plants and animals between countries in efforts to identify high yielding varieties/breeds in order to improve production and productivity to meet the ever growing demand for food brought about by rising population growth. These developments had brought new challenges to biosecurity work around the world including the Pacific. He added that the rules established under the various WTO agreements relating to trade in agriculture had also added new dimensions to biosecurity work in terms of mechanisms and processes for certification of traded commodities to ensure that they do not impose any biosecurity threats on importing countries.
94. The Plant Protection Officer also provided a brief account of some of the key initiatives and activities being undertaken by FAO in response to global and regional challenges in the area of biosecurity. This included the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) which had been established since 1951 that provided phytosanitary standards on how to prevent the spread and introduction of pests of plants and plant products. Another important initiative of FAO was that on Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which aimed at assisting member countries to control the introduction and use of pesticides based on accepted pesticide management practices. He advised that under this initiative, substantial technical assistance had been provided to member countries in establishing control mechanisms to regulate the range, quality and suitability of pesticide products; in addressing their safe handling and use; and in encouraging responsible and generally acceptable pesticides trade practices.
95. He stated that, in response to the challenges faced by the Pacific, FAO had assisted some of the member countries in reviewing and harmonizing their quarantine regulations to meet IPPC requirements, which was a pre-requisite for membership in the Convention. Assistance had been provided in building national capacities through training in the area of pest identification to facilitate their work in development of pest lists, which was necessary for agricultural export purposes. In terms of promoting effective pesticide management practices, FAO had conducted regional training aimed at enhancing the understanding and appreciation of countries on the need for effective management and safe use of pesticides.
96. The Plant Protection Officer concluded by acknowledging the presence and involvement of other players in the region and their contribution to the development of effective biosecurity and plant protection services. He added that in view of this, and after assessing the areas where it had the comparative advantage, FAO should focus on capacity building through technical training and advice; information exchange and dissemination; and the provision of technical assistance.
97. The Representative from the Cook Islands expressed his endorsement of the paper and the importance of biosecurity to the overall development of agriculture in the region. He endorsed the need for closer cooperation and collaboration between FAO and other partners present in the region, particularly SPC, to avoid duplication and promote complementarity. He also highlighted the importance of the PestNet programme to the region in terms of information exchange and requested FAO to assist in expanding the coverage and services provided by PestNet so that it could benefit the rural areas. In response, it was clarified that although FAO was involved in facilitating its establishment, PestNet was currently operated and managed as a private sector initiative and FAOs involvement was now limited to providing response to queries from countries and individuals, and the provision of technical advice.
98. The Minister from Vanuatu reiterated the point raised by Cook Islands on the need for closer collaboration between FAO and other players in the region in the area of plant protection and biosecurity. He noted that strong partnership was essential to achieve a satisfactory level of coordination to address the threats posed to the productive sectors. The Minister added that Vanuatu would seek to continue its engagement of FAO technical and financial assistance in areas such as market access and fruit fly management, and in post-quarantine.
99. The need for closer collaboration was further supported by the Representative from Papua New Guinea, who also highlighted with concern the risk faced by his country and possibly by the rest of the countries of the region, due to the fact that it was sharing common boarders with Indonesia and of its proximity to some of the Asian countries.
100. The Minister from Tuvalu also expressed his endorsement of the biosecurity paper and requested FAO technical assistance in the management and control of coconut scale-insect outbreaks in two villages on the island of Vaitupu. He advised that food crops such as breadfruit, papaya and bananas had all been severely damaged by the scale insect.
101. After further discussion and having taken note of the critical role of biosecurity and plant protection in maintaining food security in the region, and the challenges faced by the region as a result of global and regional developments, the meeting approved the following recommendations:
(i) That the critical role of biosecurity and plant protection in maintaining food security in the region be noted;
(ii) That the challenges and the context in which biosecurity and plant protection operates in the region as a result of changes at the global environment, particularly the liberalization of trade and rules set under the WTO agreements, be noted;
(iii) That FAO take a more strategic approach to biosecurity and plant protection in the region by building strong partnerships with regional organizations and the donor community, and by focusing its assistance and interventions on areas where it has the comparative strengths, including:
human resource capacity building through training and technical advice;
generation and dissemination of information; and
provision of technical assistance.
102. The Sub-Regional Representative drew the attention of the meeting to document SWPM/CKI/4.4 and explained that farming systems development and marketing was one of the focal areas of SAPA and activities undertaken were aimed at improving farming efficiency and profitability thus contributing to improving incomes and consequently the livelihoods of the rural population. He then invited the SAPA Farming Systems Development and Marketing Officer to give a brief presentation to introduce this paper.
103. The Farming Systems Development and Marketing Officer, Mr Heiko Bammann advised that the paper had focused on a particular aspect for improved livelihoods, the farm enterprise profitability. He stated that farm enterprise profitability and economic sustainability of innovative livelihood approaches were preconditions for increased market production, food security and poverty reduction. Through better farm management and marketing skills, farmers would be in a better position to take advantage of market opportunities and to generate profits. He then provided a brief outline of the changing environment under which farming in the Pacific Island Countries was taking place. Changes were increasingly fast due to the adjustments in global trade and other influences which might be attributed to the globalisation trend. He indicated that a major focus of his work program was in the area of supporting the move towards more market oriented and commercial farming and outlined the requirements for doing so.
104. He also provided a brief outline of some of the projects and activities that were implemented over the past years as well as the experiences made and areas for further improvement. Apart from assistance and support provided under approved Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) projects, FAO was also able to provide continued assistance to member countries through Regular Program activities, particularly under the Agriculture Support Systems Program.
105. The Farming Systems Development and Marketing Officer concluded by stating that the challenges in building the skills and attitudes for farming as a business remained substantial and that the transformation from subsistence to commercially oriented farming was something that was ongoing worldwide. In most places compared to the Pacific, however, communities were less isolated; transport and communication infrastructures were more advanced and efficient; and marketing and processing systems were more developed. Thus, the remoteness of the farming communities in the region was a major constraint with respect to extension and advisory work in agriculture and agri-business and as such innovative ways of communicating with farmers were required.
106. The Minister from Nauru commended the Farming Systems Development and Marketing Officer for the paper and the presentation which he considered were quite succinct, informative and had presented some very innovative approaches and ideas. He expressed his endorsement and support to the work being done in the area of farming systems development and marketing and encouraged others to support and adopt the innovative approach being espoused. He added however that Nauru needed to re-train and encourage its people on how to grow food crops first in order to get food production going before taking the next step of capacity building in farm management and marketing, for farmers.
107. The Minister from Vanuatu endorsed the paper and supported the proposed program focus for the next 2 years, adding that farm-market linkages were very important for Vanuatu. He considered that the paper was well presented and reflected the wealth of experience of FAO on smallholder agriculture in the countries of the region. He added that he was pleased that deliberation was being made on this topic, one that covered many facets of agriculture familiar to the majority of Vanuatu small farmers. He stated that support to small farmers was still of high priority to Vanuatu and added that only through better farm management and marketing skills that farmers would be able to improve their profits and also become better farmers.
108. The Minister advised of the generous funding assistance received from the Peoples Republic of China for the construction of the Vanuatu Agriculture College, and thanked FAO for assisting in planning the use of the facility. He added that the College was planning to launch as capacity building programme in farm management and marketing for extension officers who would then assist the College graduates in their market-oriented pursuits. He further added that FAO would be requested to assist in this capacity building exercise.
109. The Minister also advised that Vanuatu was currently implementing a producer organisations project under EU and French funding aimed at encouraging small farmers to work in groups in the production and marketing of their produce such as cocoa and coffee. Also, future work plans were currently being developed for the livestock sector. He then requested further cooperation on improving supply and market linkages for smallholder cattle farmers, development of extension materials and genetic improvement.
110. The Minister from Niue also thanked FAO for the paper and the further elaboration and clarification provided during the presentation. He made special reference to Niues Young Farmers programme which was aimed at attracting young people to take up a career in agriculture and equipping them with the relevant technical knowledge and skills. The programme was being supported by NZAID (New Zealand Agency for International Development) and technical assistance from FAO would be welcome.
111. The Minister from Tuvalu expressed appreciation for the paper which he considered to have given an accurate portrayal and account of the challenges and constraints encountered by the rural farmers and people of Tuvalu. He stated that there were no agricultural export from Tuvalu at all and there was no local produce market which could be used by farmers as an outlet for their surplus production. Also, the trend was that more and more people were relying on imported staple root crops such as taro, and rice, rather than growing their own food crops. Given this situation, Tuvalu would need every assistance and support to reverse the trend.
112. The Representative from Tonga stated that he was pleased with the paper and was supportive of the need to recognize farming as a business. He added that the commercialization of farming in Tonga was growing at a very fast pace. He made reference to the Future Farmers project funded by FAO for Tonga which was due for closure, and provided a brief account of the rationale and objectives of the project. He stated that there was a growing population of unemployed youths with a corresponding high level of social crimes being committed, particularly in the main town areas. As such, the project was developed in an attempt to reduce the problems associated with youth unemployment and in order to attract more youths to become farmers.
113. He stated that despite the ups and downs of the project, some of the participating youths had actually taken up farming as a profession, and pledged to continue the programme even after the FAO-funded project had ended since a lot more young people still needed to be reached. He also pointed out that in regards to market-oriented production, improvement to physical marketing infrastructure was also important and was a priority for Tonga.
114. The Minister from the Marshall Islands clarified that the Marshallese people had traditionally been subsistence fisherfolks rather than subsistence farmers, however, FAO assistance to farmers remained important. He advised that vegetables could be grown on some of the islands and were potentially important for possible import substitution, and added that a total of 40 farmers in the capital, Majuro were currently growing vegetables.
115. The Minister made reference to the need to consider the implication of global warming and climate change on food security in small low-lying islands and advised that the issue was highlighted by the President of the Marshall Islands during the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS-fyl) as well as at the Mauritius Small Island Developing States (SIDS) meeting earlier this year.
116. After further discussion, Ministers considered and approved the following recommendations:
(i) That the work of FAO in the region, in terms of building skills and attitudes for farming as a business to assist in the transformation of subsistence farming into commercially oriented farming; in enhancing the integration of farm management training into the more general and recurrent aspects of the decision support systems for farmers; and in providing advisory support and training materials to member countries on farm management and agricultural marketing, be noted;
(ii) That government be urged to ensure the provision of adequate organizational and physical resources for farmer extension and training activities, and that such resources must be commensurate with the technical complexities faced in the effective application of farm management methods;
(iii) That a more inclusive approach to support farmers decisions, such as ensuring that training programmes achieve a broad coverage of farmers across the spectrum; the use of modern communication tools for advisory services and disseminating farm management and marketing advice and the adoption of a multidisciplinary approach to critical issues, be endorsed;
(iv) That the continued involvement and work of FAO in developing and promoting innovative approaches to improving enterprise profitability and higher incomes for rural people, be endorsed.
117. In introducing this agenda item, the Sub-Regional Representative drew the attention of the meeting to document SWPM/CKI/4.5 which provided a brief outline of the activities undertaken in the past two years as well as some of the issues affecting the region in relation to food trade and nutrition security. He then invited the SAPA Food and Nutrition Officer to provide a brief presentation elaborating the main issues discussed in the paper.
118. The Food and Nutrition Officer, Mr Dirk Schulz outlined some of the major issues affecting the Pacific region in relation to food trade and nutrition security as a result of globalisation that had spread into the Pacific. He pointed out that international food systems were changing at a rapid rate based on more intensive agriculture and livestock production, new food processing and storage technologies, more efficient global distribution systems, the emergence of new food retailers and changing diets among consumers. While this had generally resulted in greater availability and diversity of food, its safety and quality as well as access by all population groups was not always guaranteed. He added that at the same time, in their quest to generate revenue through value adding and trade, Pacific Island agro-based industries were being faced with increasingly stringent international regulatory systems. On the consumer side, Pacific Islanders were leading less active lives and coupled with environments that facilitated nutritionally risky choices, the changes were having a significant negative impact on the health and nutritional status of people in the Pacific as evidenced by the rising incidence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
119. He emphasized that FAO had a unique capacity to assist its member countries in responding to these challenges through its mandate on food and agriculture, which enabled it to strengthen and better focus food safety & quality efforts throughout the entire food chain from farm to fork and to apply food-based solutions to nutritional problems. Through its involvement in the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), which was a neutral international forum for conducting independent scientific assessment of food safety risks as well as other issues relevant to food and nutrition, and through its field programme, FAOs Food and Nutrition Division had been at the forefront of food safety, quality and nutrition for more than 40 years. Thus the Organization could avail technical assistance based on internationally recognized best practice and transform it to meet the specific needs of each member country.
120. The Food and Nutrition Officer concluded by recommending that FAO continue to draw on its unique comparative advantages by assisting member countries in the Pacific region to strengthen their food control systems to become compatible with international requirements, with the dual aim to facilitate access of their products to international food markets and protect consumers from food-borne illness. Furthermore, he highlighted the need to enhance countries ability to participate in and contribute to the work of the CAC, and to harmonise their food legislation and regulations. As well, there was a need to assist countries in quality assurance throughout the food chain, particularly with regards to small scale enterprises involved in food product development. Finally, he recommended creating sustainable improvements in nutrition, especially among nutritionally vulnerable households and population groups.
121. The Representative from Tonga endorsed the general thrust and recommendations of the paper. He thanked FAO for the assistance provided towards the establishment of the Codex Committee in Tonga and support to the national Codex system and Codex Contact Point. He informed the meeting that Food was a new addition to the portfolio of his Minister. He reminded FAO of Tongas request for technical support to review its food legislation and formulate a comprehensive Food Act and appropriate regulations, and urged for its rapid approval. With reference to the strengthening of the food analytical capabilities in the region, he informed the meeting that food analytical equipment had been supplied to Tonga, but were still in boxes as Tonga currently did not have a laboratory to house the equipment, and was still looking for financial assistance to build one. He added that a national food laboratory was seen as important to improve food quality and safety in support of national agricultural development.
122. The Minister from Kiribati after endorsing the paper stated that Kiribati was currently trying to encourage farmers to grow more local food and some advance had been achieved with support of the DSAP project. He noted the importance of ensuring nutrition security and added that dietary related illnesses particularly Vitamin A deficiency had been recognised as a growing problem. Future work plans included proposals for processing baby food and juice from local crops, such as breadfruit, banana and pandanus were being looked at, and a request for technical assistance in this area had been submitted to FAO. He explained that what was required was an appropriate consultant to conduct a feasibility study to identify the adequate size of a food processing plant, provide specifications and training in appropriate food processing technologies, and some advice on the types of products to be developed based on market demand and requirements.
123. The Representative from Papua New Guinea commented on the technical and scientific content of the paper and the complexity of the issues addressed therein. The accreditation of food laboratories was seen as very important, however, he commented that for countries in Melanesia and the northern Pacific it was expensive and difficult to send samples to the regional laboratory established at the USP in Fiji. He advised that Papua New Guinea currently had three laboratories and pledged for support to have at least one of these accredited to cater for the needs of the region. He highlighted the difficulty PNG was experiencing in applying and enforcing food regulation and standards, and the need for ongoing capacity building assistance in this area. He noted that work in the region in this important area was also being carried out by other regional organizations such as SPC and the PIFS and reiterated the need for consolidation of efforts.
124. In response to comments and queries from countries, the Food and Nutrition Officer advised that, in respect to the point made by the Representative from Tonga, the issue of the national laboratories was well recognized and was a common problem particularly in smaller countries. He added that the establishment and maintenance of a national laboratory was not an easy thing due to high initial investment costs and limited throughput making it hard to sustain such a facility financially. Regarding the pending request from Kiribati, he informed the meeting that FAO was in the process of contracting a suitable consultant.
125. In response to the points raised by Papua New Guinea, the Food and Nutrition Officer clarified that FAO had assisted the establishment of the food laboratory at the USP based on the need to ensure that there was an internationally accredited facility available at the regional level to cater for the needs of the region but individual countries were free to decide whether to make use of such a facility or not. The commitment by PNG to get at least one of its laboratories fully accredited was welcome and should further help cater for the needs of the region for such services, which was anticipated to grow in the future.
126. The Sub-Regional Representative, in response to the query from Tonga on its request for assistance in food legislation review and drafting, advised that SAPA had only recently been directed by the Director-General to link the request from Tonga to the RPFS, noting that provisions were made under the regional TCP project in support of the RPFS for the recruitment of regional consultants to provide support in a number of areas including food legislation. In regards to the request from Kiribati, he noted that this had been pending for some time, however, it was expected that an appropriate expert would be fielded in due course.
127. Regarding the accreditation of additional laboratories, the Sub-Regional Representative indicated that the support provided by FAO to the USP laboratory was aimed at achieving international accreditation but the running and operational costs had to be met through a user-pay system. This meant that USP would be required to recover the costs for running the laboratory through charges imposed on the services provided. He added that while countries were free to set up their own individual laboratories, the question remained whether such a facility would be economically viable. He reiterated that the Codex Secretariat was housed in FAO and therefore FAO would always be actively supporting countries in the Pacific on food standards while at the same time trying to avoid duplication of efforts in the region.
128. At the end of the discussion, Ministers considered and approved the following recommendations:
(i) That the ongoing changes in global food systems and their impact on the agriculture and fishery sectors, as well as the populations and economies of Pacific Island Countries at large, be noted;
(ii) That FAO continue to assist member countries to:
strengthen their food control systems to become compatible with international requirements, with the dual aim to facilitate access of their products to international food markets and protect consumers from food borne illness;
enhance their ability to participate in and contribute to the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and harmonise their food standards and regulations with those set by the Commission;
strengthen capacity in quality assurance throughout the food chain, particularly with regards to small scale enterprises involved in food product development; and
create sustainable improvements in nutrition, especially among nutritionally vulnerable households and population groups.
129. The Chair referred the meeting to document SWPM/CKI/4.6(Rev.1) and invited FAO to introduce the paper. In response, the Sub-Regional Representative explained that forestry was one of the focal areas of the work programme of SAPA and the paper had been prepared to brief the meeting on the global and regional trend in forestry development, on forestry work being conducted in the region as well as some of the key issues and challenges. He then invited the SAPA Forestry Officer to further elaborate on the paper.
130. The Forestry Officer, Mr Aru Mathias introduced the paper by first discussing the background to FAO activities in the forestry sector and the links between the global forest initiatives and their implementation at the national level. The paper also provided a brief summary of current forestry developments in the Pacific region and the issues faced.
131. He stressed that forests and tree resources had immense value, were a source of natural capital and if managed well and given appropriate development, they could provide many different benefits and opportunities for the forestry stakeholders particularly in supporting their sustainable livelihoods. A prerequisite to achieving sustainable management of forest and tree resources, however, was for the countries to have essential and up-to-date data and information on their resources. This would provide the baseline information needed for use in decision-making processes and for policy and planning purposes.
132. The Forestry Officer highlighted two global forestry initiatives of importance to the Pacific. One was the National Forest Programme under which support to national forestry development activities were being provided. The other was the Forest Resource Assessment Programme, which allowed FAO to monitor and report on the worlds forest resource. He then provided a briefing on activities currently being undertaken at the regional and national level with support from these two initiatives. He concluded by proposing a number of actions to be taken as a way forward for the next two years.
133. The Minister from Kiribati thanked FAO for the presentation and stated that Kiribati wanted to maximise benefits derived from its very limited forest resource which comprised mainly of coconut and pandanus trees. He stated that assistance was required to set up a portable saw milling operation for the purpose of utilizing coconut logs for timber.
134. The Representative from the Cook Islands, after thanking the Forestry Officer for the presentation, sought further clarification and advice on the relationship between forestry and food security, in particular, the contributing role and the link between forestry and food security.
135. The Representative from Tonga acknowledged the assistance provided by FAO to overcome the effects of recent cyclones which included the provision of a mobile sawmill and related training on proper milling of fallen coconut palms and trees. He advised that forestry had been separated from agriculture and was now a separate Ministry following a recent decision of government. Thus, it was likely that a representative from Forestry would become part of Tongas delegation to future meetings. He reminded FAO of Tongas request for assistance in the review and formulation of its forestry policy.
136. The Minister from the Solomon Islands commented that forestry in the Solomon Islands was increasingly looked at as an important part of agriculture although the two sectors were still being administered as two separate Departments each having its own Minister. He reported that key developments in the Solomon Islands in regards to forestry were in the areas of community forestry and tree planting with teak planting becoming most popular amongst resource owners and that about 2,000 ha of teak had been planted in 2003. This was undertaken through their own initiative and without much assistance from Government. He further informed that Solomon Islands was currently facing difficulties in getting a new forestry legislation endorsed by Cabinet first before preparation for passage in parliament. The legislation had been drafted with the assistance of AusAID but due to conflicting interest of logging companies, land owners and the Government it had not yet been approved. This was therefore an urgent matter for Government to solve. He added that more than 1 million cubic metres of round logs had been exported and that logging was the second highest income earner for the country in 2004. Furthermore, it provided employment for more than 1,000 people.
137. The Representative from Australia acknowledged the paper provided by FAO and stressed the importance of identifying priorities before replacing national forestry legislation. He briefed the meeting on the support provided by Australia to countries relating to forestry development and encouraged the small countries to voice and articulate their concerns through FAO. He added that Australia was of the view that there was a need to strengthen the regional forestry commissions and harmonize reporting requirements, and highlighted as an example, the reporting for the global forest resource assessment. He encouraged countries to actively participate in the global forest resource assessment programme and to streamline regulations for the sustainable use and certification of forests. He added that Australia had assisted countries with their reporting to the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) and would like to encourage countries to actively participate in the UNFF process.
138. The Minister from Vanuatu expressed support for the recommendations made and noted the importance of pursuing the proposal on coherent policy development. He pointed out that sound policy decisions and sustainable forest management were difficult without reliable data. He added that Vanuatu had been confronted with the difficulty of quantifying its forest and tree resources due to absence of up-to-date information, and that FAO assistance would be welcome in conducting an inventory of existing resources.
139. The Minister thanked FAO and its collaborating partners for the National Forest Program being implemented and added that the priority now was the development of a National Forest Sector Plan. He advised that the Plan was important in the implementation of the Forestry Act and programmes, and requested FAO to provide technical assistance for the drafting of the document. The Minister further stressed the need for collaboration between FAO and other actors. In this regard, he suggested that governments take stock of programs with similar goals within the countries. He added that it was important to ensure the interlinking of programs, especially where they addressed sector-wide or cross-cutting issues such as biosecurity and plant protection for forestry and agriculture, and food security. The Minister commended FAO for its collaboration with governments through the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission in addressing the threats posed by invasive species.
140. The Representative from Samoa expressed his appreciation for the paper presented and for the considerable achievements made. He stated that Samoa had benefited from FAO forestry projects at the national as well as global level. He informed the meeting of Samoas intention to develop more non-wood forest products, and highlighted the work that was currently being undertaken to develop bamboo as a potential industry. He further informed the meeting that following a recent government restructure Forestry was no longer with the Ministry of Agriculture but was now part of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Lands and Environment. With reference to the global forestry initiatives of FAO, the Representative requested more information on the National Forest Programme and how Samoa could access and actively participate in the programme.
141. The Minister from New Zealand expressed his endorsement of the paper and acknowledged the effort made by FAO to assist countries with the development of their forestry sector. He informed the meeting that New Zealand had implemented sustainable logging practices in its privately-owned natural forests, and was happy to share with countries the lessons learned from this. He indicated that as a result of applying sustainable logging practices the value of wood removed from the same resource had gone from NZ$15 to $300 and now $1,200 per cubic meter for rimu. He stated that illegal harvesting undermined the real value of forests in each country and gave the example that the development of sustainable use and sale of beech forests in NZ was severely hampered by imported wood which may have been illegally logged. As such, New Zealand fully endorsed FAOs effort to combat illegal harvesting and its support to promote and certify exports of wood from sustainable forestry.
142. The Representative from Papua New Guinea made reference to the Kyoto Protocol and stated that Papua New Guinea would like to see the prospects of carbon trading being explored further and applied in the region. He added that Papua New Guinea was a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol and would need to map out its forest resources and register carbon sinks for carbon trading possibilities. Incomes derived from this trade could then be used to help develop the forestry sector. He then enquired whether FAO had any program currently in place to assist countries with larger forest resources to assess and register carbon resources to be later used for trading.
143. The SAPA Forestry Officer in responding to some of the issues raised by countries advised that FAO had the capacity and technical expertise to assist member countries acquire and operate sawmills. FAO could also provide training on milling and on the maintenance and operation of sawmills. On development and support to community forestry work, he suggested that initiatives should be linked to the ongoing work by the South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources (SPRIG) to ensure that the landowners had the right planting material and benefited from the experiences gained. In reference to the comment by Kiribati, he recommended the establishment of field gene banks for priority tree species as well as training for the establishment and maintenance of tree nurseries, including utilisation and marketing of forest products. He advised that FAO had provided assistance to Vanuatu through the National Forest Programme facility for the development of its national forestry strategy and would continue to assist as appropriate in the future.
144. In response to the request by Samoa for further information on the National Forest Programme, the Forestry Officer advised that detailed information had been sent to countries through the FAO focal points. He added that discussion had been held with the Samoa Forestry authorities and it was understood that work had been initiated on drafting the countrys concept note, the first step to securing assistance under the National Forest Programme Facility.
145. The Forestry Officer supported the suggestion by Australia for strengthening of the regional forestry commissions, particularly the Asia Pacific Forestry Commission and its role in minimizing the damages and impacts of invasive species. In addition, he provided further clarification on the role and contribution of forestry in improving food security by referring to the use of forest products such as nuts, fruits, fuelwood, as well as animals from the forest as source of food and the marketing of forest products as a means of generating income by the rural people.
146. In response to the comment made by Papua New Guinea relating to the Kyoto Protocol and carbon trading, the Forestry Officer indicated that the link to environment was not covered in detail given the limits and scope of the paper. However knowledge on the resources available in the country was important and this was covered under the Forest Resource Assessment Programme activities. He added that during his last mission to Port Moresby, he and another FAO colleague had been working closely with counterparts in Papua New Guinea to establish information on available forestry data and, more importantly, on how to improve data collection and the quality of the data for now and in the future.
147. The Sub-Regional Representative in response to the request from Kiribati clarified that FAOs earlier assistance to Niue and Tonga and the supply of portable sawmills was a response to an emergency assistance request following damage to their respective forestry resources by cyclones. He highlighted that the focus of FAO was on technical assistance and not on provision of large capital items. He added that in some instances additional equipment had been provided but only after it was considered essential and formed part of the overall package for supporting capacity building activities and training.
148. With respect to the role and contribution of forests to food security the Sub-Regional Representative added that forests had to be looked at as part of a wider ecosystem for food production. He reminded the meeting that the concept of food security included not only the ability to produce ones own food but also the ability to acquire by purchasing from other countries.
149. After further discussion and clarification, the meeting approved the following recommendations:
(i) That FAO, in collaboration with regional organizations and the donor community, be urged to give priority attention to assisting member countries in reviewing and drafting appropriate forestry policies and legislation to enhance sustainable management of forests;
(ii) That countries be urged to institutionalise forest and tree resources assessment, in recognition of the absence of essential data and information for effective policy, planning and resource development and management purposes;
(iii) That countries be encouraged to institutionalise planning requirements and frameworks, in view of the apparent lack of forest management plans and planning framework in countries to guide forestry development,
(iv) That multi-sector discussions and active stakeholder participation in forestry processes be encouraged given that issues affecting forests and trees are complex and cross-sectoral in nature; and
(v) That countries be encouraged to enhance knowledge and understanding of forestry stakeholders on the potential benefits of Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP), realizing that forests and trees are natural capital.
150. Following invitation from the Sub-Regional Representative, the SAPA Fishery Officer, Mr Masanami Izumi drew the attention of the meeting to document SWPM/CKI/4.6(Rev1) and advised that the paper had focused on providing an update on the status of world fisheries and aquaculture, and the implications of developments at the global level on the Pacific fisheries. He advised that in accordance with the latest report of FAO, about 75 per cent of the worlds main fish stocks were fully exploited, over exploited or significantly depleted. By contrast, aquaculture had continued to grow rapidly at an average of about 9 per cent since 1970.
151. He stated that FAO had been able to monitor and analyse global fisheries performance and trends over the past years based on information collected from annual fishery statistics questionnaires and other statistical information provided by countries and regional organizations. He emphasized the importance of FAOs annual fishery statistic questionnaires, as a means of getting up-to-date information on the status of the worlds fishery resource and encouraged countries to complete and submit the questionnaires on time.
152. The Fishery Officer stated that given the current trend, it was important to ensure that effective resource management measures and regimes were being adopted by countries to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries resources. He then provided a brief account of regional activities currently being undertaken to address the issue of effective and sustainable resources management, which included the preparatory conferences leading up to the establishment of the Fisheries Commission for the Central and Western Pacific. He pointed out that national, regional and international obligations had placed significant responsibilities on the countries fisheries management authorities, with significant resource implications.
153. He advised that FAO had been supporting global and regional efforts to establish effective resource management regimes, through a number of initiatives including the development and implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the associated International Plans of Action on fishing capacity, sharks and IUU fishing. In addition, FAO had provided support and assistance in the area of community-based fisheries management and national capacity development; strengthening data collection/fishery statistics; and coastal fisheries legislation through regional projects.
154. With reference to fisheries marketing and trade, the Fishery Officer reiterated the importance of marketing information and quality and safety requirements in order to access international markets. In recognition of this, FAO had been implementing projects to assist national authorities in improving the effectiveness of their seafood quality assurance systems through provision of training in modern seafood inspection and quality assurance activities; establishment of national competent authorities for seafood inspection and enhancement of organization and planning skills.
155. He advised that fisheries subsidies had been given increasing attention at the international level and in the WTO negotiations. Specifically, there had been concerns over the fact that many countries were currently subsidizing their fishing industries, which contributed to the continuing problem of IUU fishing and undermined efforts to manage fishing capacity. He stated that fisheries subsidies were considered by FAO as a stimulus to over-capacity and over-fishing.
156. In terms of potential for development, the Fishery Officer stated that aquaculture of many marine species held great potentials, targeting the Asian markets for such products as grouper, sea cucumber and giant clam. Interest in inland freshwater aquaculture was also growing particularly in the larger Melanesian countries such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea. In view of this, FAO was planning to implement a regional aquaculture development project in order to improve technical, environmental and economic viability of existing small-scale aquaculture farming activities.
157. The Minister from Tuvalu acknowledged the usefulness of the information provided by the Fishery Officer and expressed strong support for the need to address IUU fishing in the region. He stated that poaching and illegal fishing were common problems in most of the member countries, and was a main topic at the recent UN Fish Stocks meeting held in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. He advised that the theme of that meeting was Governance of High Seas Fisheries and the United Nations Fish Agreement - Moving from Words to Action and suggested that countries should follow the same approach by taking appropriate actions to rectify the problem of IUU fishing in the region. He also expressed concern over the fact that poachers were still able to find markets where they legally trade their illegal catch.
158. The Representative from the Cook Islands expressed support for the issues raised by Tuvalu relating to IUU fishing. He also expressed appreciation to the governments of New Zealand and Australia for their assistance particularly in the area of surveillance in the region. He encouraged countries to work closely with their neighbours in the monitoring and surveillance of poachers. He informed the meeting that Cook Islands had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Samoa which allowed both countries to follow poachers into each others EEZs, and a similar agreement with French Polynesia was currently under preparation.
159. The Minister from the Marshal Islands expressed strong support for the point raised by Tuvalu on IUU fishing and advised that his country also had a tripartite agreement with the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau similar to bilateral agreement between the Cook Islands and Samoa. He then suggested that consideration should be given to establishing a regional agreement on IUU fishing.
160. The Minister from New Zealand stated that New Zealand was determined to eliminate IUU fishing in the Pacific and to assist further with surveillance and monitoring work. The Minister urged the countries to upgrade their legislation in order to allow for the prosecution and the imposition and enforcement of appropriate penalties for such offenders.
161. The Representative from Tonga stated that Tonga had received FAO technical assistance for seaweed cultivation and in the development of aquaculture in general. He added that FAOs continued assistance was still very much needed in the area of aquaculture and coastal fisheries and, more specifically, in providing support to future fishermen of Tonga targeting women and youths as main beneficiaries. He considered that this could be a project for possible inclusion in the RPFS activities. He highlighted the importance of mangroves in protecting the coastal ecosystems and as been witnessed during the tsunami which hit parts of South East Asia in December 2004.
162. The Minister from the Solomon Islands expressed appreciation to FAO for the valuable information provided on the status of fisheries in the world and in the region. He acknowledged the importance of fisheries to the economic development of the Solomon Islands and highlighted areas for possible FAO assistance, which included community-based coastal fisheries, updating and reviewing of fisheries legislation, and processing of tuna and other marine resources.
163. The Chair advised the meeting of the increasing incidences of Ciguatera poisoning which had emerged as a major problem in the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, resulting in the general public being reluctant to buy reef fish in general including parrot and surgeon fish which were known to have caused near fatal cases of Ciguatera poisoning in the recent past. He then requested the assistance of FAO in obtaining more information on the causes of this outbreak, and possible solution to the problem.
164. The Representative from Australia reiterated the importance of the fishery sector to the economic and social well-being of the Pacific islands and as such fish stocks needed to be maintained and closely monitored to ensure sustainability. He advised that Australia had developed a national plan of action to combat IUU fishing in consultation with stakeholders in early 2005, and will be supporting a regional workshop on IUU fishing to be conducted by FAO soon. He added that countries were welcome to consult Australia to learn from its experiences in the areas of fisheries resources management and combating IUU fishing.
165. In response to the issues raised by the countries, the Fishery Officer highlighted that assistance in the formulation of fisheries legislation, fish processing and coastal and community-based fisheries were all part of the FAOs areas of focus and ongoing activities in the region. He stated that appropriate experts could be made available for technical assistance if requested. With reference to the need for assistance in processing of fish products in the Solomon Islands, the Fishery Officer suggested that a proposal should be provided outlining details relating to the products to be developed, target markets and the specific assistance required.
166. The Sub-Regional Representative acknowledged that fisheries was the most important resource for most of the Pacific Island Countries, and reiterated FAOs comparative advantage stemming from its international network and pool of experts. He highlighted the fact that part of the responsibilities of SAPA was to ensure that FAO initiatives and assistance adequately addressed countries needs. He reinforced New Zealand position on the need to have a sound legislation in place and added that FAO would continue to make resources available to assist countries in this area. He acknowledged the assistance provided by Japan to FAO for some of the fisheries-related activities in the region, which included funding assistance for the recruitment of an Associate Professional Officer to assist the Fishery Officer in the work on aquaculture and fisheries information.
167. In response to the suggestion made by Marshall Islands, the Sub-Regional Representative stated that regional agreements were matters for regional organizations to address. As such, he considered that the suggestion for a regional agreement on IUU fishing should be referred to the Forum Fisheries Committee, the governing body for the Forum Fisheries Agency.
168. From the further discussion on this particular issue, there was an emerging consensus that while sustainable management and IUU fishing were important, the suggestion to develop a regional agreement should be taken up further at the Forum Fisheries Committee meeting to be held in Majuro, Marshall Islands later in the month.
169. After further deliberations on the issues raised in document SWPM/CKI/4.7(Rev.1), the meeting approved the following recommendations:
(i) That FAO continue to assist countries in further strengthening fisheries management by improving data collection/fishery statistics in cooperation with regional organizations as basis for effective policy-making and management of fisheries and aquaculture;
(ii) That FAO continue to cooperate with relevant regional organizations in support of the management of highly migratory fish stocks in the region;
(iii) That FAO continue to assist countries in the further implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries at the national and regional levels, and in the development of their national plans of action for the implementation of the provisions of the IPOAs, particularly for sharks and IUU fishing;
(iv) That FAO continue to assist countries in further improving the effectiveness of seafood quality assurance systems in the region in order to strengthen national capacities in seafood inspection and to meet the requirements of major international trading partners,
(v) That FAO continue to provide updated information on international trade-related issues, in particular on fisheries subsidies within the context of the WTO negotiations; and
(vi) That FAO continue to assist countries in developing small-scale aquaculture of economically important species as a tool for coastal fisheries management.
170. The Sub-Regional Representative in introducing this agenda item advised the meeting that following the decision made at the Second Ministerial Meeting in Apia, Samoa in 1997 FAO with the assistance of collaborating partners had organized annual roundtable meetings since 1998, on the implications of the WTO multilateral trading system on agriculture and food trade in the region. Now that seven years had passed and given that the annual meeting was in response to a decision made by Ministers themselves, the item had been included in the agenda so that the meeting could be briefed on the outcomes, and to seek guidance on its future. He then called on the Policy Officer to briefly outline the major achievements and outcomes of the Roundtable Meeting (RTM) series.
171. The Policy Officer after providing further background information on the RTM stated that the overall objective for the series was to promote awareness and deepen understanding of Pacific Island Countries, of the implications of WTO multilateral trading system on agriculture and, in particular, on agricultural and food trade in the region. He highlighted the fact that it was a collaborative effort between FAO and a number of financial as well as technical partners. Financial partners included New Zealand, the Commonwealth Secretariat, IFAD and the Auckland-based Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commission of the PIFS. Technical partners were those that assisted as resource persons and with the presentation of technical papers during the RTM and included the PIFS, SPC, New Zealand, the Commonwealth Secretariat and IFAD. He then highlighted some of the major outcomes of the meeting as follows:
A total of seven annual sessions had been successfully organized since 1998 all of which had been held in New Zealand;
A total of 13 member countries had participated in some or all of the sessions;
A total of 147 participants had attended the seven sessions with an average of 20 participants per session;
60 per cent of the total participants were from agriculture and fisheries authorities and the rest were from Trade and Foreign Affairs;
at least 10 individuals that had participated in the RTM were now considered as regional experts on WTO issues and some had been employed by FAO as consultants on WTO-related studies or as resource persons to trade-related workshops and training courses;
Recently, some countries had sent additional participants to attend the RTM at own cost;
Two analytical studies had been conducted with funding assistance provided by FAO under two TCP projects, in support of the RTM; and
There had been increase in the number of both financial and technical partners supporting the RTM reflecting their endorsement of the value of the meeting.
172. The Policy Officer highlighted the fact that evaluation had been conducted at the end of each session to ensure that the issues addressed during the RTM were in line with the priorities of the countries. As a result of those evaluations, there had been some major changes and revision to the overall focus and coverage of the RTM. The initial focus had been on awareness-raising on WTO rules and obligations, and was later expanded to include analytical work on implications of the provisions/obligations under the agreements relating to agriculture. This was further expanded to include assessment of regional trade initiatives and their linkage to the WTO agreements and compatibility with WTO rules.
173. He advised that the eighth session was being organized to be held in July in Wellington, New Zealand. Based on consultations with countries conducted towards the end of last year, the programme proposed for the next session had given increased focus on issues related to fisheries. He also advised of the decision by the Commonwealth Secretariat to end its assistance and involvement with the RTM. He then concluded by raising a number of issues that required some guidance and decision from the meeting.
174. The Minister from New Zealand thanked FAO for the work in this particular area and for the report on the outcomes of the RTM. He reaffirmed the commitment of the Government of New Zealand to the Roundtable and added that New Zealand welcomed the opportunity to continue to host the meeting in Wellington and make available its pool of resource persons.
175. The Representative from Tonga expressed his appreciation to FAO and its collaborating partners for the successful organization and conduct of the annual meetings, and advised that he himself had attended some of the early sessions and had benefited from it. He stated that Tonga had benefited from the meetings and was able to utilize the knowledge and experience gained when negotiating its accession to WTO. He added that a number of participants from the Ministry of Agriculture had participated in the meetings and this had strengthened the knowledge and capacity of the Ministry in the area of trade.
176. The Representative from Papua New Guinea thanked FAO for the report and expressed the view that perhaps the Roundtable in its present format and approach had served its purpose and had achieved its objectives, and suggested that consideration be given to changing its focus. He then proposed that the RTM should now focus on practical orientated outcomes by focusing on assisting countries in developing positions for the ongoing WTO negotiations. This could be implemented through case studies in order to facilitate the sharing of experience that would help improve skills and knowledge for negotiations.
177. The Minister from Tuvalu commented that FAO should continue to brief and advise member countries on the benefits, advantages and disadvantages of joining WTO, which was particularly important to the smaller island countries. As well, advice should continue to be provided on the impact of trade liberalization and WTO rule on the development of agriculture.
178. The Minister from Niue stated that Niue had benefited from attendance at the RTM and added that he had attended some of the meetings and had found them to be very informative and relevant in strengthening the understanding and appreciation of the impact of WTO rules on agriculture and trade development in the region. He then expressed support for the continuation of the RTM on an annual basis.
179. The Representative from Fiji expressed Fijis support for the Roundtable Meeting and stated that Fiji would like to see the initiative continued. He reported that a number of participants from Fiji had attended past sessions and were now better informed on the WTO Agreements. He referred to the comment by Papua New Guinea and endorsed the suggestion for the RTM to focus on more practical outcomes.
180. The Sub-Regional Representative expressed appreciation for the positive comments and suggestions made by the countries. He reiterated the gratitude of FAO to its collaborative partners and to New Zealand in particular, for the assistance and support provided. He clarified that although the agenda might have appeared to be covering the same issues every year, the actual topics and the focus of the discussions had actually changed from year to year. He emphasized that the meeting had served to fill information gaps and provide updates on issues currently under WTO negotiations. He clarified that the role of FAO was to provide information and enhance understanding of WTO issues and their implications and it was up to countries to formulate their own views and positions on the issues under negotiation within WTO.
181. The Sub-Regional Representative pointed out that the decision to hold the annual meetings in Wellington had significant advantages, one of which was the opportunity to tap into the pool of experts of New Zealand at no cost to FAO. He then explained that the resource persons provided by New Zealand as well as the other partners were being provided free of charge, which would have cost at least US$60,000 every year had they been hired as consultants.
182. After further discussion, the meeting expressed strong support for the continuation of the Roundtable Meeting on an annual basis considering that WTO negotiations were still ongoing, and acknowledged with appreciation the continuing commitment by New Zealand to support the annual meeting. It also urged FAO to continue to seek donor support to facilitate the continuing participation of countries at future meetings.