Delegates to the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) meeting in French Polynesia last week witnessed a colourful traditional ceremony to present the official handbook of the Pacific region's newest organic Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) Bio Fetia to POETCom for assessment and accreditation.

The handbook was presented by organic farmer and President of the PGS, Dimitri Temeharo, to the Associate Minister of Agriculture from the Cook Islands, Hon. Kiariau Turepu, who accepted it on behalf of POETCom.

Participatory guarantee systems are locally focused organic quality assurance systems. They provide an option for certification of organic products, based on active participation of stakeholders - producers, consumers and retailers - and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange. PGS can be useful for developing local organic markets, providing consumers with a guarantee that the products they are buying are grown to organic standards.

The POETCom PGS Review Committee will now review the Bio Fetia handbook. If the PGS meets the required standards, including adopting the Pacific Organic Standard as its principal production standard, and includes each of the five key PGS elements -participation, shared vision, transparency, trust, integrity-based approach, and horizontality - the Bio Fetia will be accredited and authorised to use the Organic Pasifika mark (logo) on their products. The Organic Pasifika mark gives consumers a guarantee that the product is organic and it gives producers a way to give their product a point of difference in the market place.

POETCom is working towards acceptance of the Organic Pasifika PGS mark across the region to also facilitate organic trade between Pacific Islands. Peer review and inspection are key tools in providing a guarantee that products are organic under a PGS and so are much cheaper to maintain than third party external certification schemes. French Polynesia has recognised PGS in its national legislation relating to organic agriculture. The PGS Bio Fetia (Organic Star) was established in December 2011, comprising 16 producers and 10 consumers. Bio Fetia's motto is, 'sowing and growing other stars'.

SPC currently houses the secretariat for POETcom and supports the secretariat and PGS Review Committee through the EU Increasing Agricultural Commodities Trade (IACT) project based at the Land Resources Division.