214. The Sub-Regional Representative drew the attention of the meeting to the presence of representatives from the USP and the SPC, and suggested that they be invited to make a brief statement.
215. Following endorsement by the meeting and at the invitation of the Chair, the Representative from the USP, Professor Alfred Ebenebe, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the School of Agriculture made a brief statement on the role of the University in terms of capacity building through the provision of formal training in agriculture. He advised that the University was currently reviewing the agricultural curriculum, to ensure that it continued to address the skills requirements of its member countries. He expressed appreciation to FAO for the invitation for USP to attend the meeting as an observer, and to the Chair for the opportunity to address the meeting.
216. The Representative from the SPC, Mr Aleki Sisifa, Director of the Land Resources Division also made a brief intervention. He outlined the work currently being conducted by the Secretariat in relation to the development of agriculture in the region. He noted the emphasis on building national capacities, strengthening regional collaboration, enhancement of trade and their role in ensuring sustainable agriculture and food security in the region. He also highlighted the complementary nature of the work being carried out by FAO and SPC. He then advised the meeting of the decision made at the SPC Ministers for Agriculture at their meeting held in Fiji last year, for SPC to explore with FAO the possibility of combining the two Ministerial meetings, which should contribute to improved coordination and collaboration between the two organizations.
217. The meeting noted with appreciation the statements made by the Representatives from the USP ands the SPC. In regards to the point raised by the Representative from SPC pertaining to the recommendation to combine the Ministerial meeting of SPC with that of the South West Pacific, there was no discussion on this matter reflecting the fact that the recommendation was not supported.
218. The Minister from New Zealand referred to the fact that some limited commodities/products from the island countries of the region had managed to penetrate markets in developed countries and the need for coordinated efforts to ensure that the region was able to maintain its share of such markets. He highlighted the current success of the noni, some of which was being marketed as an organic product and which had potential for a sustainable economic opportunity for the Pacific region. He noted the need to address the hygiene status of the production process and to have in place appropriate standards to ensure compliance with international trading practices and requirements. He also highlighted the possibility that countries will try and compete with each other for the same market and thus there was a need for a regional approach to ensure that the industry was developed in a sustainable manner or run the risk of losing the market. He then stated that New Zealand was willing to assist where necessary.
219. The Representative from Samoa thanked New Zealand for raising the issue and advised that Samoa had already established a national council to look into such matters. He added that the council was fully operated by the private sector.
220. The Minister from Niue expressed his support for the establishment of a regional council or a similar body to facilitate the coordination and development of the noni industry and further suggested that it be private sector-based.
221. The Sub-Regional Representative advised that while FAO was willing to assist, a regional mechanism had already been established for other commodities such as the Regional Kava Council. He added that the PIFS had been instrumental in the establishment of the Regional Kava Council and as such, it would be appropriate that the matter be referred to it for further consideration and appropriate action. He pointed out that SAPA and the PIFS had the same island country membership and as such, no country would be disadvantaged if the matter were to be referred to and taken up by the PIFS.
222. The Minister from New Zealand supported the suggestion made by the Sub-Regional Representative but considered that it would be more effective if the meeting were to make a decision on the matter, which could then be taken up later with the PIFS.
223. After further discussions and comments from countries, the meeting noted with appreciation the point raised by New Zealand and agreed that FAO provide technical support to the noni industry where required. It also approved that recommendations be brought to the PIFS on the importance of developing a coordinated approach to ensure the industry was developed in a sustainable manner.
224. The Representative from Australia advised the meeting of the work Australia was currently doing in relation to the independent external evaluation (IEE) of FAO, as approved by the FAO Council. He also informed the meeting of Australias undertaking to keep countries informed through a proposed network of member countries.
225. The Minister from New Zealand endorsed the statement by Australia, and also the need for the IEE.