In the Pacific region, organic production is both traditional and new. It is traditional in the sense that the majority of producers use tried and tested practices handed down from generation to generation that are generally in harmony with the environment and with modern organic principles. It is new in that Pacific Island countries and territories are starting to understand the benefits of certification for obtaining access to external markets and negotiating fairer trading partnerships, and the need for research and training to develop the sector and generate much-needed livelihoods for their people.
The expense and complexity of organic certification has been a constraint to industry development. Addressing the certification issue is a priority for the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom), which, with support of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and funding through the European Union Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade project, has initiated the Pacific Organic Guarantee Scheme to provide relevant certification options for Pacific organic producers based on the Pacific Organic Standard.
The Pacific Organic Standard was adopted as the official regional organic standard by the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry in the region in 2008 and it has become well recognised internationally through its acceptance into the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement Family of Standards, which sets the benchmarks for organic standards worldwide. The Pacific Organic Standard is the third regional organic standard in the world and the first to have regulations that relate specifically to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The Pacific Organic Guarantee Scheme includes participatory guarantee schemes (PGSs) and third party export certification. It also aims to identify organic products from the Pacific clearly on the shelf through the ‘Organic Pasifika’ branding and, over time, build an awareness of the amazing array of organic products available in our region and develop trade in organic products between the Pacific Islands and other regions.
PGSs are low-cost locally managed organic certification schemes designed to build farmer capacity through exchange and peer review and to provide a credible guarantee to consumers that the product they are purchasing is really organic. There are exciting developments already, with the PGS established in New Caledonia ‘BioCaledonia’ planning to open two local specialty stores in Noumea in 2014 specialising in organic produce from the region and initiating inter-Pacific Island trade in organic produce based on PGS certification. French Polynesia has also established a PGS and four more are in development in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati. Products certified include fresh fruit and vegetables, honey, local nuts, sugar made from coconut toddy and virgin coconut oil.
Export certification is being developed in collaboration with three partner certifying agencies, Biogro NZ, Bioagricert and the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia. These certifying bodies signed a memorandum of understanding with POETCom and SPC in 2013 to provide export certification services to the POS and assist in building capacity for organic certification in the region through such activities as training local audit capacity and participating in the POETCom Standards and Certification Committee. Organic exports from the region are growing steadily, with over 50 certified groups and exporters and over 15,000 small holder farmers benefiting. Some of the success stories including virgin coconut oil, spices, coffee.
Examples of the range of certified organic and fair trade products now being exported from the Pacific are on display at the POETCom stand during the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the SIDS Village in Apia.