Dear Editor,

The initiative taken by the Foreign Affairs Minister is a welcoming news to Solomon Islands farmers, in particular the cassava growers and others who are interested and have the potential to venture into this area.

However, we are all too familiar with similar talks in the past that have failed to materialise and I believe, some people will take this news with a grain of salt.

Having said that, I would like to be optimistic, I think it is high time that we take these initiatives seriously and explore the options, risks and how we can tap into existing support/assistance available in the region to help us achieve this - exporting our local produce.

While I share the issues raised by the experts on quality, our ability to keep up with supply to meet export market requirements and others, I would like to think that we can still make it if we seek advice and assistance that are available in the region. By this, I'm referring to organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Land Resources Division and their partners. There are numerous projects that are chanelled through these organisations to assist Pacific island countries such as the "Pacific Agribusiness Research-for-Development Initiative (PARDI), funded by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR), which looks at increasing the competitiveness of market chains for high-value products of agriculture, forestry and fisheries and the "Increase Agriculture Commodity Trade (IACT) project that will commence in 2011 that focuses on strengthening Pacific productive export capacity in primary industries: agriculture, forestry and aquaculture, to name a couple.

There are a number of projects/assistance that are can be accessed to get these 'talks' into action. I think the real issue here is the lack of information sharing by the relevant authorities, e.g. the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce and Trade and others to inform the public and farmers of such opportunities and available assistance.

I believe that our people and the agriculture sector have a huge potential to rack in income from exporting our local produce, but we just need to be pointed to the right direction with appropriate advice and assistance.

If our neighbouring countries like Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the others can export their agricultural produce overseas, why can't we? We could learn from their experience as well, through our connections with the MSG, the Forum (PIFS), SPC (SI is a member and can get relevant assistance with minimal or no cost).

I would like to conclude by asking our experts to provide some information on how to address challenges that we may face in our strive to break into new grounds apart from just highlighting the limitations, which can be demotivating.

Happy farming.