The Pacific region is currently facing a health crisis that is directly linked to agriculture, food and nutrition. With a dangerously high level of imported cheap, low nutrition foods, obesity rates within Pacific island countries are among the highest in the world – more than 60 percent in some islands. Increased incidences of diabetes, heart disease, morbidity and mortality are direct results of this trend.
A parallel problem is a dramatic decline in the region's agricultural production, with many islands struggling to achieve economies of scale, partly due to their geographic isolation. As a result, healthy food is beyond the means of many low-income Pacific households. Some 35% of Samoans do not eat fruit and vegetables due to high prices and non-communicable diseases, especially cardiovascular conditions, are the leading cause of death in the country. Other challenges in Pacific island countries include limited availability of land for agricultural production and poor access to markets and finance for smallholder producers, with difficulties compounded by the effects of climate change, particularly rising sea levels.
Exploring opportunities for addressing some of the region's critical challenges, the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum will discuss pathways for sustainable economic development and showcase successful business models that improve market access, local income generation and regional trade based on agriculture and fisheries.
Incentives to improve access to local agricultural produce at an affordable price for consumers will be a strong theme during the Forum. So too will mechanisms to encourage farmers and other value chain actors to improve market access, ensure compliance with quality standards for value-added products and promote the role of the private sector.
"The 2nd Agribusiness Forum seeks to deepen partnerships to promote specific public-private partnerships to boost local production and value addition," said CTA Director Michael Hailu. "The active engagement of the private sector is critical for the transformation of the agrifood sector in the Pacific to address major challenges of food security, nutrition and climate change resilience."
A special focus will be the link between agriculture, nutrition and health and the promotion of healthy local food. Considerable opportunities exist for the Pacific agrifood sector to strengthen local markets, and evidence will be presented to demonstrate trends and successes in promoting quality, nutritious and healthy food.
"We have the opportunity to change household diets by identifying and addressing the constraints to local healthy food production and identifying the specific national linkages between agriculture and nutrition," said Chris Addison, CTA's regional coordinator for the Pacific.
Linking agriculture to tourism is a particularly promising strategy for the Pacific, and one which will be discussed in detail during the three-day event. Targeted marketing which highlights the appeal of local ingredients, traditional cuisine and the history and cultural diversity of the Pacific region for visitors can do much to drive the domestic agrifood sector, as can farmers' markets, ecotourism and agritourism activities, such as farm tours.
Chefs are already playing an important role as ambassadors for healthier food and local products, and side events will include live cooking classes held by celebrity chefs, Colin Chung and Robert Oliver and a Chefs for Development Dinner. Based on local ingredients, this initiative builds on the Chefs for Development Platform, launched at the 1st Pacific Agribusiness Forum in July 2015.
"Linking agriculture to tourism-related markets is key for agribusiness development in the Pacific region," said Mereia Volavola CEO, PIPSO. "We are very excited about linking the various sectors and working with Chefs for Development to promote better market access for local farmers and agribusiness actors to the hospitality sector."
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