|SPC, Fiji and New Zealand collaborate to train Fiji and Tuvalu biosecurity officers|
|Friday, 15 June 2012 10:00|
Training provided by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Land Resource Division in collaboration with the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture (NZMAF) and the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji will help strengthen biosecurity in Fiji and Tuvalu to enable the countries to manage risks linked to increased agricultural trade. The training, focusing on pest and disease identification, was attended by 15 officers from the two countries.
Dr Lalith Kumarsinghe, Entomologist with NZMAF, thanked SPC and his Fijian counterparts for participating in the training.
‘This is the result of several years’ work by a number of organisations in New Zealand as well as in the Pacific to address the gaps identified in one of the top priority areas – plant health diagnostics.’
‘Lack of diagnostic capabilities is a major constraint in trade and biosecurity in Pacific countries; as you all know, diagnostics support almost all biosecurity and trade activities such as quarantine inspection, pest risk analysis, export pre-clearance systems, development of pest lists and many others,’ Dr Kumarsinghe said.
He added that with support from the New Zealand Aid Programme, NZMAF is aiming to improve the diagnostic capabilities of the biosecurity staff in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands in collaboration with Museum Victoria, Australia, SPC and Landcare Research – New Zealand.
‘We are also in the process of developing the most important resource for diagnostic work – a reference collection for your imports and exports in a virtual environment where high-quality diagnostic images can be accessed through the Internet.’
NZMAF will also provide basic equipment required for an entomology lab at Koronivia, Fiji.
Dr Kumarsinghe explained that NZMAF provides intensive training for selected participants in biosecurity and trade to strengthen their skills in plant health diagnostics. ‘This includes four 1-week in-country workshops, practical experience between workshops, two weeks’ training in a NZMAF laboratory for two participants and another week’s refresher training.’
‘Basically we equip the participants with the skill, knowledge and resources needed to run a basic laboratory for biosecurity work,’ he said.
Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Biosecurity Authority of Fiji Waisiki Gonemaituba said he thought it was a unique opportunity for Fiji; particularly given present efforts to increase agricultural trade with New Zealand and other countries, and the need to meet their biosecurity requirements.
‘The training will enable Fiji and Tuvalu manage risks arising from biosecurity threats associated with production and export of Fiji’s key commercial agricultural crops, thus enhancing Fiji’s agricultural exports and ultimately increasing the country’s rural income,’ he said.
Mr Gonemaituba expressed gratitude towards the New Zealand Aid Programme for its commitment and support in developing diagnostic tools and enhancing the diagnostic capabilities of the Fiji and Tuvalu officers, saying that this would be of great help to them in improving border security.