The visiting Australian Minister for Development and the Pacific Minister for Defence Industry have had Agriculture conversations in Solomon Islands.
Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy, says he has had conversations with Solomon Islands government Ministers, focusing on ways to increase agricultural exports and explore opportunities for local farmers. In an exclusive interview with Tavuli News, Minister Conroy expressed optimism about the potential in the agriculture sector for Solomon Islanders. “You’ve got thousands of years in experience of growing things like cassava and yams and I think there’s great opportunites”.
Addressing Biosecurity Concerns
Minister Conroy underscored the importance of addressing biosecurity challenges that can impact trade relations between Solomon Islands and Australia. He pledged to work towards providing additional support for Solomon Island farmers to tackle legitimate biosecurity issues and ensure the prevention of diseases and pests from affecting Australia.
“In fact, I’ll be going back to Australia to talk about how we can provide more support for Solomon Island farmers to deal with the biosecurity issues that are really legitimate. And to make sure that diseases and pests don’t get into Australia,” said Conroy.
Trade Imbalances and Opportunities
A recent report by PHAMA Plus highlighted substantial trade imbalances between Australia/New Zealand and the PHAMA Plus countries, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Agricultural commodities from Australia to PHAMA Plus countries exceed imports by over seven times, showcasing the potential for further growth in agricultural trade.
Minister Conroy believes that the opportunity for unemployed Solomon Islanders to work on Australian farms and gain valuable skills is invaluable. Currently, nearly 6000 Solomon Islanders participate in Australia’s Labour Mobility Scheme, filling labor shortages, supporting their families through remittances, and potentially returning with skills to start their own businesses.
“They fill labor shortages in Australia, they send home remittances to support their families, and may come back with skills to start their own businesses,” shared Conroy.
Investing in the Future
To support local farmers and market vendors, the Solomon Islands Government’s Ministry of Agriculture, is constructing a treatment facility for fruit certification to meet export requirements. The vapour heat treatment project, valued at SBD7 million, aims to strengthen the fresh produce supply chain between Solomon Islands and other island countries in need of fresh supplies.