Vila Times

First ever Coconut Summit opened in Luganville yesterday

First ever Coconut Summit opened in Luganville yesterday
First ever Coconut Summit opened in Luganville yesterday
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The Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Matai Seremiah will officially open the National Coconut Summit yesterday in Luganville, Santo.
For over a century, coconuts have been an integral part of the economy of Vanuatu. Recent statistics show that the coconut sector contributes to 45% of Vanuatu’s GDP, and accounts for over 50% of merchandise exports. Two out of three rural households are engaged in coconut farming, contributing to the livelihood of more than half the rural population for Torba, Sanma, Penama, Malampa and Tafea.1 To date, Vanuatu’s coconut sector have been concentrated in the production of copra. Expansion in value addition, particularly for smallholder farmers, has been a long-term challenge with only few SME producers and enterprises are engaged in virgin coconut oil production.
In the coming years, Vanuatu will enter uncharted water, which brings new opportunities as well as challenges. On 4th December 2020, Vanuatu will be the sixth country to graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status. This marks the country’s achievement in economic and human development. The graduation also comes with a phasing-out of preferential market access and financial and technical assistance specifically granted to LDCs. As regards exports, the growing international demand for more “green” or “sustainable” agricultural products and services may present substantial trading opportunities to Vanuatu. But extreme weather events associated to climate change will continue to pose socio-economic and environmental challenges particularly to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as Vanuatu.
The Director of the Department of Industry, Jimmy Rantes said this first ever Coconut Summit brings together all the coconut stakeholders together to come up with strategies for making the coconut sector contribute to sustainable development and “better future” of Vanuatu.
Director Rantes said the summit is a joint collaboration between the Ministry of Trade, Tourism, Commerce, Industry, Cooperatives and Ni-Vanuatu Business and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity with technical and funding support through the National Green Exports Review Project of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
He outlined that the immediate objective of the Summit is to come up with a strategic roadmap for the implementation of the Vanuatu National Coconut Strategy 2016-2025.
In particular, he said the Summit will focus on ways to achieve streamlining of initiatives and policy actions of different agencies; Strengthening linkages between the development of the coconut industry and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and Better institutional setting for diversified and sustainable exports of coconut-based products.
Director Rantes said the plenary panel discussion during this summit would involve the participation of Director General, Directors, and Regional and International experts in Coconut, Senior Officials, Producer Cooperatives, Private Sector and Coconut Producers (farmers). Concluding session with an agreed recommendations and way forwards. The sessions discuss – Where we are, where we want to go, support to coconut industry, rejuvenating coconut production in Vanuatu, access to finance and investment in coconut industries and conclusion and way forward.
The Government has recently launched a national coconut strategy for Vanuatu, which outlines the key strategies for implementation. In addition, the Vanuatu Government to for support under the 11th EDF funding has also prioritised the coconut value chain.
The first tranche of funding was allocated towards replanting and support to value addition of virgin coconut oil and crude oil production. I would also like to call for a more comprehensive policy and regulatory framework that facilitates the growth and diversification of the coconut industry for improving rural livelihood incomes.