July 4, 2022
A week-long regional meeting of the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) and organic stakeholders was officially opened today by the Minister for Agriculture Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi.
The regional meeting is one of the first gatherings on organic agriculture as post-COVID travel restrictions are lifted, creating a unique opportunity for organic-minded stakeholders to collaborate under support from the European Development Fund 11, the Kiwa initiative, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
In his address, Minister Reddy expressly stressed the need for increased support from development partners and donor agencies to advance the shift towards more organic agricultural practices undertaken in the Pacific region.
"This platform is important, because it allows us to work together and share innovative ideas and solutions that ensures achievement of sustainable and healthy food systems.
"In 2020, an organic taskforce was established to finalize the National Organic Policy for Fiji and I would like to acknowledge POETCOM (Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community) which has been instrumental in supporting development of Fiji’s first National Organic Policy as well as Fiji Organic brand that was launched in 2018 to guide and set standards for Fiji and the Pacific," he said.
"Currently there are a total of 220,000 hectares of certified organic land in nine Pacific Island countries whereby 17% is located in Fiji," Minister Reddy highlighted.
"We need support and funding to fast track and boost our efforts of distributing organic manure to our farmers bearing in mind the geographical space that we need to bridge in order to reach these farmers and create awareness to them on the need to shift towards organic and sustainable farming practices," he said.
"I wish to seek your assistance in leveraging financial resources so that we can expand organic manure production and supply it to farmers for free so that we can wean them out from using inorganic fertilizer progressively over the next decade, it’s a dream to declare most of our islands organic and we need to dream big in order to deliver," Hon. Reddy reiterated.
While also reflecting on the economic effect of organic farming practices, Hon. Reddy said that for small countries like Fiji and the Pacific, that operate off of small production bases, differentiating its products as organic in the export market would allow these countries to fetch premium prices as well as stake claim in the organic market for their produce.
Meanwhile, POETCom Chair and Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development Director and Founder Sashi Kiran shared the benefits of organic approaches in the Pacific as a whole which had a positive rippling effect on the ecosystem.
"Many peer reviewed scientific research has proven the benefits of organics – from Food Safety, Biodiversity, soil health, ocean health and of course human health. Organics in the Pacific provide an opportunity for eco-tourism as many travellers choose to travel to places where there is clean food and a sustainable environment available," said Ms. Kiran.
Pacific Community (SPC) LRD Director and IFOAM - Organics International President Karen Mapusua at the opening of the POETCom Regional meeting shared; "This standard (Pacific Organic Standard) is unique, it reflects us as the Pacific, it is rooted in our agroecological conditions, farming practices and the reality of agriculture in the Pacific. As with all organic standards, it is a work in progress, they are not static and 10 years down the track with the POS being used in different Pacific contexts it was time to refresh elements and further develop guidance for its implementation, while importantly ensuring that its Pacific regional relevancy is maintained."
Organic agriculture is key to Pacific Island Countries and Territories commitment towards building a pathway to sustainable development and can contribute to substantially mitigating global warming impacts. During the gathering, farmers and key stakeholders will have the opportunity to exchange experience and best practices on organic agriculture and build on the demand for reduced inputs, closed nutrient cycles and fertile soils.
The meeting this week aims to address the findings of the European Union-supported EU Protégé Review of:
a. The POETCom Governance and how the Network of organic farmers with some 57 members in 17 Pacific Island Countries and Territories – will do its work for the next 10 years;
b. Review of the Pacific Organic Guarantee System – on how the Pacific’s own Regional Organic Standard (POS) - 3rd Global Regional Standard - is used, managed and maintains its integrity;
c. Review of the current Guidelines for the use of the Pacific Organic Standard. "