Biosecurity and Trade

Biosecurity is a strategic and integrated approach to analyzing and managing relevant risks to human, animal and plant life and health and associated risks to the environment. Interest in biosecurity has risen considerably over the last decade in parallel with increasing trade in food, plant and animal products, more international travel, new outbreaks of transboundary disease affecting animals, plants and people, heightened awareness of biological diversity and greater attention to the environment and the impact of agriculture on environmental sustainability.

Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTSs) need to position themselves to take advantage of trading opportunities, while protecting their natural resource base from potential risks.
SPC assists Biosecurity Authority of Fiji on taro export
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 13:49

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Land Resources Division (LRD) assisted Fiji’s Biosecurity Authority and Agriculture Department in the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to facilitate a field visit to Fiji for two members of Biosecurity Australia (BA) from 31 January to 4 February. The two members were Semy Siakimotu (Senior Advisor to Plant Biosecurity on Pacific crops) and Nick Nolan (Senior Scientist, Pest Risk Analysis).

The visit was a direct result of discussions held in October 2010, when a delegation comprising representatives of the Fiji Biosecurity Authority, the MPI and SPC visited Sydney and Canberra to observe BA’s inspection procedures on fresh taro imports and to discuss taro import conditions with the Australian Plant Biosecurity team in Canberra.

 According to Ilaitia Boa (Biosecurity Authority of Fiji’s acting Chief Executive Officer), the purpose of the recent visit by Biosecurity Australia was to scrutinise the taro export pathway, following the rejection in Australia of several containers of fresh taro from Fiji between March and August 2010 due to non-compliance with  Biosecurity Australia quarantine requirements.

Ilaitia Boa said, ‘One of the major issues was that a few fresh taro corms rotted on arrival in Australia due to an infection caused by pathogenic organisms that invaded damaged tissues during transit. This could have resulted from poor handling during harvesting and transportation or at the packing house when preparing the consignment for export.’

Boa said that this visit enabled the Biosecurity Australia staff to understand the situation in Fiji and appreciate the challenges in the taro supply chain, with a view to developing appropriate import protocols for Fiji taro exports.

The team visited major taro production areas in Fiji, including Taveuni, where 70% of Fiji’s export taro is produced, and Waibau in Naitasiri (Viti Levu). Visits were also made to a number of exporters’ packing houses to observe the post-harvest cleaning process that must meet quarantine requirements for export to Australia.

‘The visitors held discussions with taro farmers, buyers (middlemen), processors and exporters on maintaining the high quality of taro through proper handling, transportation, processing and packaging to minimise damage to taro corms and to minimise or prevent the occurrence of rot,’ Boa said.

The team also visited papaya and ginger-growing areas and held discussions on various issues, including the progress of the current pest risk analysis being conducted on fresh ginger exports from Fiji.

‘The visit to papaya sites — Dawasamu and Volivoli in Viti Levu — was to follow-up on an earlier visit regarding a particular disorder that was discovered on papaya plants after the cyclone last year (2010). The Australian Biosecurity officers considered the symptoms attributable to the hurricane and other weather conditions that prevailed prior to the disorder being noticed and not to a new disease or pathogen,’ Boa said.

The Biosecurity Australia representatives found their visit informative, as it enabled them to understand the situation regarding taro corm rot and also the papaya and ginger situation in Fiji. They confirmed that further discussion, based on their observations, would be held with relevant authorities in Australia.

The visit was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and is part of a small research activity (SRA) that began in June, 2010 with a total funding of AUD 100,000. It aims to develop cleaner export pathways for taro and other crops in Fiji and Samoa. These will also be supported under the new Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access programme funded by AusAID to assist Pacific Island countries and territories to address market access issues.

The Biosecurity Authority of Fiji confirmed that they are working on a revised taro pathway and that a draft will be tabled for discussion by stakeholders before the procedures are adopted as an industry standard.  ACIAR is assisting Fiji’s MPI through the SRA managed by SPC’s Land Resources Division to obtain cleaner pathways for taro and ginger.

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