Public-private-producer partnerships can be powerful catalysts for enhancing agribusiness and value chain performance, as well as incomes and household nutrition in Pacific Island States.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Side Event on “Enhancing Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in the Pacific: Experiences and Opportunities” during the recently concluded Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) in Samoa, provided Government officials, producers, agro-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs), development partners, academics and financiers with the opportunity to reflect on challenges, successes and lessons learned from agri-business development programmes in the Pacific and beyond. The meeting heard from a number of public-private-producer initiatives aimed at advancing value chain development in the Pacific Island Countries.
“This event offers an opportunity to shine a spotlight on public-private partnership opportunities,” said Hon. Lopaoo Natanielu Mua, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for Samoa. “The work cannot be completed by government alone, by the private sector alone, or by development partners alone. We may go faster alone, but we can go further together.”
Unveiling a new fund launched by the Government of Samoa aimed at supporting public-private engagement, the Minister said a total of US$23.5 million had been negotiated as part of the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing project (SAFPROM), jointly funded by IFAD and the World Bank. The fund will involve partnering with the private sector in the areas of cocoa, coconut and other tree crops, providing matching grants and technical advice.
Presenting the recently launched IFAD Agri Business Capital (ABC) Fund, IFAD Country Programme Officer, Tawfiq El Zabri said it aimed to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by addressing local funding gaps In addition to providing funding in the form of loans, guarantees or equity investments, the fund provides technical assistance. Target beneficiaries include cooperatives and organisations of farmers and rural producers, financial institutions and SMEs involved in food processing, storage and input supplies. Applicants must be shown to have an impact on providing employment for women and youth and source from, or sell to local smallholders.
The Innov4AgPacific project jointly funded by CTA and IFAD has piloted an Innovation Grant Facility (IGF) targeting agro-based SMEs a well as provided seed funding to community based organisations. The Pacific SME’s contribute 20% of the total IGF budget and use the funds to access technical expertise, purchase small equipment, and build staff capacity to improve product quality, expand product offerings, enhance process efficiency and increase market share. Examples of the 23 IGF SME awardees are: Seaweed farming and processing (Tonga), Branding and packaging of traditional foods (Vanuatu), Online Traceability system (Fiji) and Coconut sap (sugar substitute) standardisation (Kiribati).
To date, eight community-based organizations in Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga and the Marshall Islands have also received seed funding to scale up agriculture-nutrition-income activities at community level and improve home consumption of nutrient-dense local crops and fish.
“These initiatives are already yielding positive results and we have partnered with the Universities of the South Pacific and Cambridge to identify good practice and evaluate the changes that are taking place on the ground,” said Judith Francis, Senior Programme Coordinator of Science and Technology Policy at CTA and leader of the Innov4AgPacific project. “We endorse grant funding for stimulating agricultural innovation and see continued focus on strengthening producer and community engagement, as the future for ensuring viable public-private partnerships.”
PoetCom and PHAMA Plus programmes emphasised the opportunities in organic agriculture and importance of partnerships between government and the private sector, to ensure that certification standards are met for domestic and export markets. Speaking for the private sector, successful Samoan businessman Tagaloa Eddie Wilson said there were significant opportunities, especially if agribusinesses can access the support and partnerships needed to target export markets.
“Our markets are very small in the Pacific, so there is no way you can survive with just those,” said the founder of Wilex Samoa, which exports cocoa, noni and kava to Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and several Asian markets. “One problem we face is that our farmers are not able to get the finance they need to maintain sustainable production, and as a result, we get erratic supplies. Another key problem is very high transport costs. The route between the Pacific and New Zealand is the most expensive in the world.” He made a plea for regional trade cooperation and partnerships to meet export demand. Opportunities include digitalization- online selling; Pacific specific branding/GI (Geographical Indication) registration; which need to go together hand in hand with an overall advancement of technology and infrastructure.