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Vanuatu’s plastic bags ban will hurt local handicraft businesses: opinion

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Vanuatu’s ban on single-use plastic bags came into effect February 1st, but there are concerns an influx of much cheaper imports from Asia may hit the local handicraft sector.

Vanuatu’s Government said the ban, which also includes polystyrene takeaway containers and straws, was the furthest any country had gone in the Pacific in its approach to plastics.

But handicraft development officer Ian Baniuri said while the changes presented opportunities, there were also challenges, RNZI reports.

“It will not be easy way to go about competing with the imported products from the Chinese market, it’s much cheaper and Vanuatu tend to go with that,” he said.

Nicola Barnes, a businesswoman living in Port Vila who’s been working with the Vanuatu Handicraft Business Development program, said the amount of time that went into locally made products meant they could not compete with imports.

“Our locally made baskets are non-industrialised, they are literally women sitting on the floor, who have gone outside and collected pandanus and dried it, and in some cases treated it or dyed it, cut it by hand and weaved it,” she said.

“So they are never going to be super cheap and they’re not going to compete on price, for example, with a cotton bag that’s mass produced from China.”

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