Tuvalu News

Rotuma set to trial direct exports to Tuvalu

July 9, 2008

Farmers in the Fiji island province of Rotuma are hoping to begin direct exports to Tuvalu before the end of the year.

The permanent secretary of Tuvalu's Department of Communication, Transport and Tourism, Falefou Tapugao, says a shortage of good farming land, combined with climate change means the country relies on imports for its food staples, which include sweet potato, taro, cassava, and yam.

Fiji is already a major supplier of product, but all its exports currently come from either Suva or Lautoka. The increasing cost of fuel is making those imports expensive.

But a new agreement means the Rotuma Island group, which borders Tuvalu, is now recognised as an international port, allowing its use for exports, which would mean a major reduction in shipping costs.

Trade and biodiversity adviser for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Sidney Suma, says while there is still no customs or quarantine infrastructure on Rotuma, they will soon be trialing shipments between the two countries.

He says he believes that will happen before the end of the year.

A total of six officials led by the Tuvalu Minister of Communication, Transport and Tourism, Taukelina Finikaso will be leaving this week for Rotuma to assess the range of potential root crops for export, formalize trade routes and consider quarantine risks when trade starts. Trade talks between Tuvalu and Rotuma began early last year and progressed to a fact-finding visit by a delegation from Fiji to Tuvalu early this year.

A Department of Information statement said representatives from the Rotuma Island Council were among the Fiji delegation. Rotuma is only eight hours boat ride to the southern most island of the Tuvalu.

Source: Radio Australia

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