These comments were made by Acting Director of SPC’s Land Resources Division (LRD) Mr Inoke Ratukalou, as he officially opened the three-day Pacific Plant Protection Organisation (PPPO) executive committee meeting in Nadi, Fiji.
‘There is an increasing number of plant pests and other invasive alien species being recorded in the Pacific region. They have spread and will continue to spread throughout the region if we are not vigilant enough.
‘The latest pest is the small fire ant recorded on Guam, but the establishment and spread of the cocoa pod borer, the giant African snail, the coconut rhinoceros beetle, papaya crown rot, parthenium weed and meremia vine should be of concern for the region,’ he said.
‘There are many more organisms, such as the Asian longhorn beetle and the khapra beetle, that threaten the region. Continued surveillance and preparedness must be encouraged among member countries and they must collaborate in their efforts to keep these and other alien species out.’
‘SPC recognises the need for Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) to participate in the World Trade Organization’s international standard setting processes and therefore currently hosts both the PPPO Secretariat, linking it to the International Plant Protection Convention, and the World Organisation for Animal Health.
‘SPC has a memorandum of understanding with both organisations to assist PICTs in plant protection and animal health standard setting and disease reporting systems, as well as in capacity building,’ Ratukalou said.
‘SPC/LRD has been at the forefront of these areas and has assisted PICTs to deal with plant protection, animal health and quarantine issues,’ he said.
Ratukalou also mentioned that SPC-LRD has in the past secured the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), the Pacific Regional Economic Integration Programme (PREIP) and, more recently, the EU-funded Facilitating Agriculture Commodity Trade (FACT) project and the new ‘aid for trade’ Increasing Agricultural Commodities Trade project (IACT), which will commence soon.
‘This will further strengthen our capacity to assist PICTs in trade facilitation issues, including biosecurity.’
The PPPO was established in 1996 but SPC has a long history of providing technical advice to PICTs since the 1950s, when entomologists and plant protection officers were based in Noumea, later relocated to Suva and recently expanded to Ponhpei.
Eleven participants from ten countries — Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Guam, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Tonga — are attending this meeting with regional partners the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s sub regional office.
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