Fiji hosts a regional meeting to enhance animal health and production in the Pacific

October 31, 2023

The Pacific Heads of Veterinary and Animal Production Services (PHOVAPS) three-day meeting at Nalagi Hotel in Nadi is bringing together over 70 participants from the Pacific Region and donor partners to foster partnerships in animal health and production in the Pacific.

The Minister for Agriculture and Waterways, Hon. Vatimi Rayalu, while addressing the participants yesterday, emphasized the importance of addressing the animal health and production sector for economic, cultural, and food security development. 

He said the Fiji Government supports the Pacific Heads of Veterinary and Animal Production Services network, which is the Pacific’s key decision making structure on issues relating to animal health, production, welfare and biosecurity.

With 22 Pacific Island countries and territories as members, PHOVAPS is well positioned to facilitate and coordinate Pacific-led efforts regarding animal health, production, and biosecurity.

Hon. Rayalu mentioned that in the competitive global market, larger and more developed countries have made significant progress in the industrial and services sectors, while the growth prospects for most Pacific Island countries and territories have been slow in the agriculture and livestock sectors.

“Many of our Pacific Island people who live in rural areas rely solely on these sectors for their livelihoods and these sectors are vulnerable to disease outbreaks because of the limitation of resources and technical expertise,” said Hon. Rayalu.

He said the arrival of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) in Indonesia and the African Swine Fever (ASF) in Papua New Guinea, reminds us of the need to safeguard our animal health sector.

“The Pacific region imports about 80% to 90% of its food resources from other countries, which makes transboundary diseases a permanent threat to our region.”

He mentioned that with this threat, there is a heightened need for preparedness across Pacific Island countries to prevent animal disease incursions.

“At present, Pacific Island Countries and Territories have limited technical capacities to contain and eradicate incursions of exotic animal diseases, so the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and development partners must continue to build capacities for frontline animal health officials for national governments in the Pacific,” he said.

“The Papua New Guinea Biosecurity Authority (NAQIA) and Timor-Leste have taken proactive approaches through disease surveillance to control ASF. These actions have been supported through capacity-building training, awareness with communities and voluntary culling of animals and movement restrictions.”

He said Fiji has led the way in developing a One-health approach mechanism leading to the formation of a National Antimicrobial Resistance Committee to enable Generic Emergency preparedness and response plans developed and updated for the region.

“A sector that is creating a relevant economic activity for our Pacific local communities is aquatic animal production. A high proportion of aquatic animal production is traded internationally, accounting for 10% of total global agricultural exports.”

He stated that Pacific Islands with a developed tourism industry, such as Vanuatu and Fiji, import a significant volume of crustaceans and other seafood every year.

“So there is a need for the aquaculture sector to develop alternative income-generating activities for import substitution and to improve food and nutrition security in isolated local communities,” said Hon. Rayalu.

The Hon. Minister reminded participants they play a crucial role in ensuring border safety as representatives of their country.

“Over the next few days, you will assess and identify short, midterm national and regional animal health and production priorities to guide PHOVAPS activities. You will also learn more about what our Pacific Animal Health and Production Framework is about,” he added.

He said by enhancing coordination and collaboration, we can strengthen our agriculture and animal health and production sector and build a sustainable future for the Pacific region and beyond.