Peskyness, PHAMA and BQAs for Tongs

The official in charge of New Zealand’s aid programme, Amanda Ellis, has been working to align the programme with other arms of the New Zealand government.

This was one of her replies in a meeting at Victoria University of Wellington to reports of frustration by Tongan horticultural and agriculture exporters. Asia Pacific Economic News (APEN) asked for her comment on issues identified in economist Brian Easton’s 1 September column in the New Zealand Listener on “Pesky problems” and follow up by Tongan interests.

A Tonga working group, assisted by the PHAMA programme, is keen to keep the watermelon pathway open for export to New Zealand. Watermelon exports restarted in 2010, continued last year and should kick off again this month.

Brian Easton reports there are 39 horticultural products New Zealand could benefit from Tonga supplying.

But there are blockages facing Tonga.

Amanda Ellis told her university audience she was aware of the general horticultural quarantine related problems and had been in talks this year with ministers, and senior officials of primary industries and customs.

Meanwhile, other Tongan interests are assembling information in support of their efforts to advocate for, and develop the New Zealand Tonga horticultural trade.

A Tongan grower had asked APEN why Tongans need to develop Bilateral Quarantine Agreements (BQAs) for the export of courgettes and pineapples to New Zealand – whilst Australia, Japan and the USA do not.

The Tongan private sector grower says NZ Biosecurity requires a long, detailed and expensive BQA process before approval. “Tonga cannot afford to go through the BQA process for each of the fruits and vegetables it can grow easily and would like to be able to export to New Zealand, including rock melons, Halloween pumpkins, butternut pumpkins, okra, edamame, lettuce, cabbage, radishes etc”.

New Zealand Biosecurity and Tonga are currently working together to develop a BQA for courgettes. MAFF Japan and USDA websites both show zucchini are an approved export from Tonga. The Tongan grower says the Kingdom did not need to develop a BQA for Japan or US, as New Zealand requires.

The BQA system is being implemented in view of the PHAMA programme. PHAMA is Pacific Horticulture and Agricultural Market Access – an AUSAid programme covering Tonga and some other islands, with the aim to overcome market access barriers.

Amanda Ellis is deputy secretary of the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and responsible for its International Development Group.

From Anthony Haas, Asia Pacific Economic News representative in the NZ Parliament’s Press Gallery, publisher DecisionMaker Publications/ Destinations Tonga; Publisher 1984 edition of “A Taste of the Tropics”, Director, Centre for Citizenship Education,  and author of the forthcoming memoir “Being Palangi: My Pacific Journey”.

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