Agriculture: Niche markets still key

The need for Pacific island agricultural exporters to target niche markets has long been accepted wisdom. A report produced by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA Plus) program late last year shows in figures, exactly why it’s so critical.

The Pacific Export Context Analysis looks at cocoa, coffee, coconut products and palm oil price fluctuations since 2009 and notes that in real terms, the USD prices of the major export commodities show an uptrend over the last 20 years. However prices have often strengthened during the first half of that period and softened in the second half.

“When it’s a global commodity; cocoa, coffee, sugar it can’t just be put into basically a bulk bin,” says  Bronwyn Wiseman, Biosecurity and Trade Development Adviser at PHAMA Plus. She says in the scheme of things, PNG and Solomon Islands are “tiny cocoa and coffee producers, they’ve generally gone into the bulk market, so they’re totally controlled by global prices.”

Hence the need for niche markets. Wiseman says niches can be defined in a variety of ways, including product quality and marketing.

Meanwhile the challenges facing Pacific exporters have remained largely unchanged for years, although in some instances, they have intensified.

PHAMA Plus Biosecurity and Environmental Safeguard Advisor, Tanuvasa Semy Siakimotu says these challenges include the cost, accessibility and reliability of transportation, sustainability of supply, market awareness, branding, certification, verification of legal origin, issues of land tenure and land disputes,  and the ongoing impacts of climate change.