Wednesday, 27 October 2010 8:11 AM

Association to Spearhead Organic Farming in Fiji

The Fiji Organic Association (FOA), established in 2006, is a non-profit organisation that provides guidance on organic farming practices in Fiji.

In its last annual general meeting held in October 2010, delegates were told that organics is the fastest growing sector in the global food industry and holds a big potential for agriculture in the Pacific. Pacific agricultural exports that are certified organic include virgin coconut oil, spices, noni, and beef.

FOA will operate under the auspices of Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom), a newly formed association of Pacific organic producers that is pioneering a regional approach to organics and fair trade in the Pacific Island region.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Land Resources Division (LRD) has been assisting FOA since its inception with technical and financial assistance.

According to Sokoveti Namoumou, Vice President of FOA, there is a need to organise systematic organic production and value adding due to Fiji's location and transport problems.

'This will enable us to take advantage of the huge organic market potential that exists in developed countries.'

FOA has 33 registered members and is also affiliated with International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

The global organic market reached US$25 billion in 2005 from US$13 billion in 1998. Worldwide, there are almost 31 million hectares of land certified organic.
'Some of our members are also willing to be certified under the Pacific Organic Standard (POS), which was developed by POETCom.'
The Pacific Organic Standard describes the requirements for organic production. It covers plant production, animal production,, bee-keeping, collection of wild products, and aquaculture and also the processing and labelling of products derived from these activities. However, the Standard does not cover procedures for verification, such as inspection or certification of products.

POETCom is expediting it efforts to have POS achieve equivalence with New Zealand, Australian and other organic standard since European Union (EU) Organic Standards have already recognised it.

Ms Sokoveti also added that initially FOA is mobilising the small farmer groups to conform to the Pacific's Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for quality assurance.

'By default, many farmers that practice subsistence and semi-commercial farming qualify for PGS. Since FOA is part of POETCom, it becomes even easier for us adapt to PGS.'

'POS could be used for certifying for PGS targeting local market and once the organic guarantee system for POS is developed, it will be used to certify for overseas market.'

She added that moving towards organic certification is the ultimate aim of FOA; however, conforming to PGS is the next best option available to benefit from the markets opportunities available.

The FOA meeting concluded that association needs to establish a full time secretariat and conduct training on PGS and the internal control system using the Pacific Organic Standard.

The meeting also directed FOA to liaise with a registered international certification body to conduct international certification using the Pacific Organic Standard for local importers and create more public awareness on organic farming.

SPC LRD Information, Communication and Extension Coordinator Stephen Hazelman has been leading LRD's mandate on organics in Pacific through POETCom.

Former managing director of Fiji Nature's Way Cooperative, Mr Sant Kumar was re-elected President in the last AGM together with Sokoveti Namoumou as vice president, Ben V Nand as treasurer and Shareen Prasad of LRD-SPC as secretary.

Five new committee members were also elected to assist with the work of FOA. They are Dharmendra Singh, Satish Kumar, Kyle Stice, Michael Brown and Poasa Nauluvula.