Australia’s Chief Plant Protection Officer Dr Gabrielle Vivian-Smith accompanied by Dr Sophie Peterson, Director for Pacific Engagement and International Plant Health, travelled to Fiji to meet with key Fijian plant health representatives. During the visit they discussed biosecurity projects such as the electronic phytosanitary certificate system ePhyto to promote the safe trade of agricultural goods with Australia and across the Pacific region, and they learnt more about the importance of kava to the region.
“Kava production and processing is a growing and important industry for Fiji and the Pacific region. There is much to learn about this culturally significant crop” Dr Vivian-Smith said.
The Australian delegation’s itinerary
Meetings with officials at the Australian High Commission
On arrival in Fiji, Drs Vivian-Smith and Peterson met with the Head of Mission at the Australian High Commission to Fiji and Australian Government officials based in Suva.
Discussions with PHAMA plus and visit to Koronivia Research Station
Meetings were held with Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMAPlus), and the Fiji market access working group to discuss the future of market access for agricultural produce across Fiji and the Pacific.
Dr Vivian-Smith and Dr Peterson visited the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture laboratories at Koronivia Research Station where they met with Permanent Secretary, Dr Vinesh Kumar and Head of Agricultural Research Dr Shalendra Prasad, to better understand Fiji’s plant biosecurity priorities.
Meetings with SPC
Dr Vivian-Smith and Dr Peterson took the opportunity to meet with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to discuss several critical projects that are part of Australia’s Plant Biosecurity Pacific Engagement Program. These included strengthening the pest list database, securing Pacific export pathways, and the electronic phytosanitary certificate system ePhyto. Discussions also included how the Australian Government and SPC can work together more closely to support the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation and the Pacific region in having their voices and views heard on the international plant health stage. Common concerns for both Fiji and Australia such as sea container hygiene, safe aid and supporting continued trade were also raised.
Pacific Plant Protection Organisation monthly session
The Executive Committee of the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation (PPPO) meeting was also held. The PPPO provides this region’s perspective to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). Chair Nacanieli Waqa facilitated the day’s discussions and Chris Dale from the Australian Government presented on the global action to control Fall armyworm.
Visit to Lami Kava
Dr Vivian-Smith and Dr Peterson were shown kava processing at Lami Kava. They discussed the future of the kava industry for Fiji and the Pacific and the Australian kava pilot. As kava is commonly processed into a dry ground powder it can be transported easily and shared widely, giving it great potential as a Fijian export.
Dr Vivian-Smith and Dr Peterson met with staff at the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji, including CEO, Surend Pratap and Chief Plant Protection Officer of Fiji, Nilesh Chand. Common concerns for both Fiji and Australia are sea container hygiene, safe aid and supporting continued trade.
Visit to the SPC plant health lab
In Narere, Dr Vivian-Smith and Dr Peterson examined larvae from the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) at the Pacific Community (SPC) plant health labs. They discussed the devastation this pest is causing in the Pacific to coconut and oil palms and the biocontrol research that is underway to control it.
Talanoa session with Yagona task force
During the final day of their visit Dr Vivian-Smith and Dr Peterson participated in a Talanoa session with the Yaqona task force. Here they learnt more about the kava drinking ceremony and its importance to Fiji and other Pacific countries.
Dr Vivian-Smith and Dr Peterson’s visit to Fiji was productive and rewarding. Now that our borders are open, our government looks forward to seeing the increasing strengthening of ties between our countries, with more face-to-face meetings in the future.