Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community


Posted On: November 20, 2015

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From PNG, to Samoa and across the Pacific

Around a year ago, Amruqa stopped doing organic certification.
The cost of flying a third party inspector into East New Britain, Papua New Guinea and to travel an area of 6,107 square miles to inspect 400 farms of spices and essential oil plants became just too much.
Forking out an average 30,000 Papua New Guinean Kina the equivalent of about AUD 14, 330 every year for a decade, Amruqa finally called it quits.
“We just couldn’t do it anymore, it was just too expensive,” 25 year old Sharmayne Ryan said exasperatedly adding “so we just sold conventional.”


Though they were rid of a financial burden, they had also dealt themselves a tough blow, closing the doors on organic markets that usually paid higher prices.
Farmers continued farming without chemical inputs. However, without organic verification their products were just not good enough for organic markets that offered premium prices.
Organic certification is verification and a guarantee the product has been farmed and processed in a manner that is ethical and safe to the environment. In Amruqa’s case, their markets demanded 3rd party verification. They were caught in a difficult place.

Disheartened, Amruqa wished for a solution.
About 2,630 nautical miles away in Samoa, Kalais Jade Stanley’s thoughts were running along a similar vein, “Why can’t we have Pacific islanders auditing Pacific islanders because they know the culture and the contexts and challenges Pacific islanders face.”
“It would be so much cheaper too, to get 3rd party certification because we wouldn’t be spending so much getting inspectors that live far across the globe,” she said.
The 26 year old works with Women in Business Development Inc, a Samoan non-government organisation that focuses on strengthening village economies in Samoa by working with individual families to cultivate sustainable businesses that maximizes farm based resources.


Six hundred of their 1200 register of farmers are organically certified through 3rd party. Unlike, Amruqa’s case, 3rd party certification costs are subsidised by the Samoan government.
With government support, organic production in Samoa is flourishing with the country now holding, at 11.8 percent, the highest shares of agricultural land under organic production in the Pacific islands region.
Frustrations over the costs of 3rd party certification resonate throughout Pacific Island countries.

A solution

Both Sharmayne and Kalais manage organic certification systems for their companies. The system encompasses farmers that supply them with raw materials.

The young women and 15 others from seven countries, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Palau, Australia and New Zealand practicing organic production or involved in one respect or other in the agriculture sector recently attended the first Pacific Organic Inspection Training for the Pacific Islands Region.

Aware of the steep costs of 3rd party certification, the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCOM), housed in the Pacific Community (SPC) decided building capacity in this area would be an apt solution.

With financial help from Agrana Fiji Limited and two European Union funded programmes the “Pacific Agriculture Policy Project” and the “Increasing Agricultural Commodities Trade Project” both implemented by SPC, the training got underway at the Skylodge Hotel in Nadi over four days from November 9th.

“The aim of the training is to build Pacific based capacity in organic inspection ultimately contributing to lower costs for 3rd party organic certification in the Pacific Island region,” said Karen Mapusua, POETCom coordinator.

“The assistance from IACT, PAPP and Agrana Fiji Ltd allowed us to cover costs for between eight and ten participants.

“Priority places were given to applicants from PNG, Vanuatu, Samoa and Fiji as these are countries where the majority of current organic licensees are.

“The training occurred at a critical time what with the increasing interests shown by Pacific Island countries in growing their organic sectors especially faced with the challenges of climate change and the need for sustainable solutions.”

Training proper was delivered by the International Organic Inspectors Association together with the support of the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA) and Biogro.

“Participants who successfully completed the assessment tasks through the course are eligible to participate in an ongoing training process to qualify to undertake inspections on behalf of Accredited Organic Certifying bodies.

“It is important to note that completing the training alone doesn’t authorise participants to undertake organic auditing independently.

“The course was designed to prepare participants to inspect to multiple standards and is based on the IFOAM Organic standard.”

Freelance organic inspectors Costa Rican Luis Brenes and Australian Kathe Purvis facilitated the training that covered all aspects of third party certification.
Brenes is a veteran. He’s been in the business for 23 years, his work traversing the globe.

He believes the benefits of the training for the Pacific extends beyond getting new organic inspectors.


“The Pacific needs to build a strong organic farming foundation and to do that it will need many extension officers to help farmers get certification by guiding them on the principles, and rules of organic farming,” he said.

It’s precisely the takeaway George Moli from Vanuatu and Belten Taki wanted – knowledge to share with their hundreds of passionate organic farmers back home.

Fifty four year old Belten Taki works with about 900 farmers through the Coconut Technology Centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands making virgin coconut oil.

“What I share will really help them,” he said.

“More interest is growing in organics in the Solomon because farmers like the lower costs associated with organic farming because they don’t have to buy chemical fertilisers.

“There is also a lot of interest in accessing organic markets overseas so the training will help us prepare them for certification.”

It may take up to a year for trainee organic inspectors to fully qualify to carry out independent 3rd party certification inspections. Some left the training skilled enough to advise and guide organic farmers for certification.

Either through its own organic inspectors or field extension officers, Pacific island countries are going to benefit through lower 3rd party certification costs and a stronger capacity for building the organic sector.


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