MANY successful trading nations cultivate a proactive approach, with private sector working in collaboration with Government trade negotiators and the research community to explore trade options and improve credentials needed to create new business opportunities.
This was highlighted during a weeklong training workshop from 19th-22nd February 2019 in Honiara focusing on ‘Market Access’, which was hosted by the Solomon Islands Biosecurity Development Program under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL).
The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), as the peak body representing private sector in the country, through its Export Industry Development Department acknowledges the good work Solomon Islands Biosecurity has been doing so far but insists for a collaborative effort from each department from within MAL and other Government departments.
SICCI’s Export Industry Development Officer (EIDO), John Paul Alasia says an effective biosecurity regime for both imports and exports, depends on a strong partnership with the private sector and is key to the development of Solomon Islands’ domestic and export base especially when it comes to agriculture.
He said the workshop last week presented the opportunity for the private sector, Biosecurity Solomon Islands and Market Access Development partners to build on their respective capacities and create networks to work together to address sanitary and phytosanitary risks in trade.
“Biosecurity Solomon Islands is the responsible and mandated agency that manages the biosecurity risks associated with the movement of goods and people in and out of Solomon Islands.
“However, we must understand that biosecurity is everyone’s business, in this instance BSI would need to work hand in hand with other Government departments such as the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Department of Trade within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commodity Export Marketing Authority (CEMA) and the Customs Division,” Mr Alasia maintained.
In regards to creating market access, Mr Alasia said for developing countries like Solomon Islands that do not have that comparative advantage like other countries this is a challenge.
He said there is a complex negotiating environment between nations especially on the biosecurity issues that prevent or restrict trade.
“We have signed up to a number of trade agreements in the region as well as internationally but we are still yet to really explore the markets,” SICCI’s EIDO Officer, Mr Alasia, said.
He said Solomon Islands need to establish a group of experts to develop and coordinate market access submission on behalf of our local exporting businesses.
The group should consist of industry members and processors, exporters and importers, the Growers Association, Freight Handlers, development partners and relevant Government agencies.
With a functioning Biosecurity system in place, Solomon Islands can become a more successful participant in the global agricultural commodities trade.
SICCI Chief Executive Officer, Ms Atenasi Ata highlighted that trade between countries drives economic development and many countries rely on exporting large quantities of their agricultural and other plant products, such as fruit and vegetables or timber to sustain domestic economies.
“When it comes to the sustainable development of Solomon Islands, agriculture is vital and with effective biosecurity controls in place, it will go a long way in protecting subsistence agriculture for food security, the domestic production of cash crops for sale within our communities and select crops for export,” Ms Ata said.
Solomon Islands relies heavily on agriculture and subsistence farming (80% of the Solomon Island population live in rural areas) and the country’s economic development and food security and the natural environment may be jeopardised by the accidental introduction of exotic pests and diseases.
Meanwhile, during the workshop, the Coordinator of Biosecurity Solomon Islands, Mr Andrew Sale said to trade with other countries, the receiving countries would want to know what kinds of pests and diseases we have and what treatment measures are being taken.
“That is why SICCI as a private sector organization representing businesses in the country and potential exporters must play this important role of informing and supporting its members to be aware of the different requirements, processes and protocols to trade,” he said.
“SICCI as a secretariat also has the responsibility of making sure its staff fully understand the different standards required of any product and protocols to trade in order to support businesses,” he added.
SICCI’s EIDO Officer, Mr Alasia maintains that SICCI will continue to work together with Government, as well as businesses to ensure the country has a functioning biosecurity regime in place so that Solomon Islands can become a more successful participant in the global agricultural commodities trade.
SICCI through its EIDO Department is partnering with Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA) to progress development of five Industry Working Groups (IWGs) into representative and sustainable industry bodies, and to progress market-access related activities to assist in growing the country’s export industry.
These are the Cocoa IWG, Coconut IWG, Horticulture IWG, Sawn Timber IWG (now Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association) and Seafood IWG. The IWGs are platforms facilitating stronger public private partnerships (joint industry and government consultative groups), they meet regularly bringing stakeholders together to address market access issues for each of the export industries.