The meeting was hosted by the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) at their offices in Kingston, Canberra. Pesticide registrars from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu attended, as well as heads of research and CEOs. Solomon Islands were not able to send a representative.The five countries are part of FAO activities under the EC ACP Secretariat funded project on Capacity Building for the Implementation of Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) in ACP Countries - Pacific Component.
The proposed regional centre and establishment of a pesticide stock management system (PSMS) is a response to an identified need from the countries for a regionally harmonised pesticide registration system and a central place that can be an entry point for donor and technical assistance from partners - FAO, the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and APVMA - and somewhere to pool resources. The centre will be housed in the Land Resources Division of SPC. A request to formalise the operation of the centre will be submitted to the Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry meeting in September 2012.
The establishment of the centre and development of working procedures will be supported through an application for FAO Technical Cooperative Programme (TCP) funds.
FAO-MEA project coordinator Dr Kevin Helps welcomed participants to the meeting. He reviewed current knowledge and issues on pesticides pertaining to FAO Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) projects, highlighting the urgent need for the five countries to provide their national pesticide list as a requirement to conducting an initial assessment. He also raised the issue of countries signing up to the Rotterdam Convention, and the appointment of national focal points within the ministry of agriculture, where the Convention is implemented through the environment ministry. A clarification will be sought on this matter.
Program Manager for Pesticides at APVMA Dr Bhula Raj confirmed commitment from APVMA to provide technical assistance on assessment of pesticides, and guidance to national pesticide regulators on the registration process. She emphasised the need to reflect the role of women in the agriculture supply chain, especially the role they play in the production and marketing of produce. The regional delegates reflected on the composition of most civil society organisations in the region, comprising of mainly women, pointing out the pioneering NGO Samoa Women in Business working to develop organics at the grassroots level.
Acting Director of LRD, Inoke Ratukalou, in his keynote address, noted that the partnership of SPC, FAO and APVMA was an opportunity to collaborate closely in the development of the harmonised registration system. He committed LRD support to the regional pesticides work.
The establishment of the centre is linked to two other FAO TCP projects, alternatives to pesticides (and the promotion of integrated pest management practices and organic agriculture), and communications for awareness of pesticide risks. The Communications TCP is being prepared by LRD. All three TCPs are now going through final phases and endorsement for implementation.
There will be an overarching management committee for the regional centre, comprising country representatives. The centre will be responsible for the assessment of registration applications and the creation of a data repository, and for referring all pesticide recommendations to a regional approval committee for endorsement. More importantly, national governments will retain responsibility for the final authorisation of sale and use of pesticides in their countries.
LRD plant health technician and focal point for the FAO pesticides project, Fereti Atu, helped with the logistics of the meetings and is coordinating the compilation of national pesticide lists from the project countries for initial assessment.
Also attending the Canberra consultation was LRD Plant Health Coordinator, Dr Tony G Gunua.