In a bid to extend regional connectivity to the Chinese market, Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy is hosting the inaugural China-Pacific Island Countries Agriculture Ministers Meeting in Nadi.

He is joined by Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China – Mr. Han Changfu, regional ministers and fisheries representatives from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and the Federated States of Micronesia.

“In 2017 the agriculture crops and livestock sector contributed FJ$557.3 million to total Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” he said.

Dr. Reddy noted that while – as per the 2017 Census- nearly 60 percent of Fijians grow crops and / or raise livestock and agriculture employing close to 84 percent of Fiji’s rural labour force, climate change has been costly, and thus spurred the need for new pathways.

“Climate change has had an immense impact on Fiji’s agriculture sector. A 2017 World Bank Vulnerability Assessment for Fiji estimates that cyclones and floods have cost at least FJ$791 million in damages and losses to the agriculture sector over the last 16 years – equivalent to around FJ$ 50 million per year on average. In accordance with climate change projections, more intense cyclones and floods are expected in the coming years, which will further affect agriculture production in Fiji,” he said.

“In order to deepen cooperation between Pacific Island countries and China, we thus need to explore pathways and establish good practices for developing a sustainable agriculture sector in the Pacific region that takes into account these challenges. In our efforts for enhanced cooperation, we will also work closely to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The Agenda is the most comprehensive blueprint to date for eliminating extreme poverty, reducing inequality, and protecting the planet. It encourages us to take bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path.”

As an outcome of the meeting, Minister Reddy said the Nadi Declaration of China and Pacific Island States on Agricultural Cooperation would be adopted and focus on production and trade creation rather than trade diversion between China and the Pacific.

Amongst the declaration’s focal points is an improved alignment of each country’s agricultural development strategies and plans and a joint formulation of the 2020-2022 Action Plan on Agricultural Cooperation of China and Pacific Island States.

From next year to 2022, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs will offer agricultural technology training to 120 Pacific islanders via two annual training courses.