Wednesday, 28 September 2011 7:23 AM

POETCom Invited to the 42nd Forum Meeting in Auckland

The Pacific Organic and Fair Trade Community (POETCom) was present at the Pacific Island Forum Leaders 42nd meeting, held on 6-9 September, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand.

At the 41st meeting, held in Port Vila, POETCom hosted an organic morning tea, and this year an invitation was extended to POETCom to be present at the Auckland meeting and this time to put on a display of organic products, as well as to host a Pacific organic lunch for the Leaders. Coincidentally, the 42nd Pacific Forum Leaders Meeting and the POETCom activities were held in the same week as the kick-off of the Rugby World Cup 2011 in Auckland.

The POETCOm display was one of many displays of island products at the Pacific Showcase in The Cloud on the Auckland waterfront. The Cloud is a special marquee put up for Rugby World Cup activities and it held centre stage for the first few days, when it was open to the public.

A significant event for Pacific trade was the launch of the True Pacific brand in the presence of Forum delegates and invited key partners who have taken up the True Pacific sticker for their products. Keynote speaker New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully encouraged Pacific Islanders to take advantage of this opportunity to reach New Zealand consumers with their unique products. The True Pacific brand is the result of a concerted effort by the Pacific Corporation Foundation (PCF) to pioneer the development of a corporate Pacific brand to strategically market island products to New Zealand consumers. Over 20 Pacific companies, as well as rural-based entrepreneurs, are now affiliated and have the True Pacific brand sticker.

POETCom's organic products included organic coffee from Papua New Guinea, organic vanilla from Vanuatu, organic noni juice from French Polynesia, and organic body oil and dried bananas from Samoa Women in Business. At the end of the three-day event, over 10,000 visitors had gone through The Cloud and picked up information on organic agriculture and been given samples of the products.

An equally exciting development for organics was the Pacific organic lunch prepared for the over 200 delegates and invited guests and held at the Sky City Conference Convention Centre on Friday 9 September. Samoa's Prime Minister and head of the high level organic group, Tuilaepa Sailele, was keynote speaker. He has espoused the organics cause and described the health benefits of chemical free agriculture, emphasising that organic agriculture was the traditional way of farming for Pacific Islanders.

Food for the lunch followed some of the recipes in Me'a Kai, the cookbook by renowned international chef, Robert Oliver.Me'a Kai was awarded Best Cookbook in the World at the 2010 Gourmand Awards in Paris, France. Guests enjoyed such fare as marinated raw fish, rourou, ika lolo'i, green banana salad, Rarotonga banana cake and Samoan coffee.

POETCom is leading the development of organics in the Pacific region and is affiliated to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) through the Land Resources Division. POETCom is founded on the belief that Pacific organics is the key contributor to sustaining Pacific cultures and improving farmer livelihoods, communities, people's health and the environment.

In 2009, 5000 Pacific Island smallholder farmers exported over USD$ six million worth of organically certified products. A Pacific Organic Standard was developed a few years ago and POETCom is working with partners to develop national Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) and improve organic certification for its members.

Present in Auckland were POETCom members from Niue, French Polynesia, Tonga and Samoa. SPC funded the attendance of POETCom members and accompanying organic products for the display.