Can of worms

Dispute over tinned meat

FED up with constant bullying and a continued trade imbalance with its Melanesian neighbour, Papua New Guinea has threatened to ban imports from Fiji. It’s a reaction to Fiji shutting out imports of Ox&Palm Corned Beed, Trukai Rice and a number of other foods from PNG.

The official line has been that PNG exporters have not met the biosecurity requirements put in place by Fijian authorities. Recent statistics show that Fiji exports goods worth more than $FJD41 million to PNG. Only $FJD2.8million in exports flows in the opposite direction. In 2012, Fiji exported $FJD73million worth of products to PNG. This fell to $FJD63million in 2013 and then to $FJD17million in 2014.

Fiji Bureau of Statistics figures show that imports from PNG, in 2012 were worth $FJD4.4 million, rising in 2013 to $FJD7.2 million and dropping back to $FJD7 million in the following year. Based on these figures alone, Fiji has more to lose than its Melanesian Spearhead Group counterpart. And all this against a backdrop of an increased number of Fijian businesses looking at PNG as a future major export market. Many businesses – mostly in the processed food industry – are already exporting and others are in the process of establishing capacities to increase trade with PNG.

That means any threat of a trade war will cause anxiety among Fijian exporters who have growing trade relations within the MSG. PNG Trade Minister, Richard Maru, has been forthright in his views about Fiji and accused the Pacific neighbour of ignoring the Melanesian Free Trade Agreement.

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