Chairman of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), Mr Jay Bartlett, supports the call made by Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Hon James Marape for Solomon Islands to focus on the Agriculture, Aquaculture and Tourism sectors as the means to sustain the country’s economy.
Mr Bartlett said Hon Marape’s vision for PNG to develop these sectors specifically the Agriculture sector is one Solomon Islands as a nation should consider.
The PNG Prime Minister made a three-day state visit to Solomon Islands recently and addressed both Government and private sector representatives from both countries at a business luncheon hosted by SICCI where he spoke of the destination, he wants to take PNG to, through the development of these important sectors.
“Agriculture is a strategic growth sector for Solomon Islands given the vast natural resources, and as such, we look forward to responsible stakeholders working collaboratively to chart a course toward greater success in this sector,” Mr Bartlett said.
“There is a need for Government to engage and support our rural population since 85 percent of our population in the rural areas depend on agriculture and are already engaged in subsistence farming for their livelihoods.”
SICCI further highlighted as well that the Solomon Islands Government must commit resources and knowledge management to the productive and resource sectors to maximise value-added output and achieve greater and more sustainable economic growth.
“Focusing on our productive and resource sectors is also important for food security, finding ways to improve local production, identify high value crops that can be grown successfully locally, look at various options on how to increase local agriculture production that we can become self-sufficient in the future reducing dependency on imported produce,” Mr Bartlett said.
“Agriculture, Aquaculture and Tourism are sectors that are close to the lives of ordinary Solomon Islanders which offer great potential for growth and more importantly job creation considering the rate in which our population is growing,” he added.
For Solomon Islands, economic growth has relied excessively on logging but with the decline seen in the logging industry, agricultural exports can be a sustainable substitute and the same can be said of the other productive and resources sectors.
“Diversification will be instrumental in minimising the sensitivity of the country’s economy to negative economic shocks caused by external factors as in the case of climate change and changing weather patterns, as well as, sustainable reforestation and the transition from extractive logging industry,” Mr Bartlett said.
PNG Prime Minister, Hon James Marape when speaking at the business luncheon in Honiara on Friday 28th February, highlighted that both PNG and Solomon Islands have underestimated their potentials in the resources sector especially in agriculture, tourism and aquaculture.
Hon Marape made a comparison of Solomon Islands with a land mass of 28,400 square kilometres to Israel with a total land area of 22,145 square kilometres, which is smaller in land area compared to Solomon Islands.
“The nation of Israel is small in land mass and their land is not arable like Solomon Islands. They (Israel) have rocks and deserts. Yet, Israel’s agricultural export is in billions to Europe using technology and their strategic close location to Europe.
“Solomon Islands has fertile land and have rain throughout the year so you have potential also in Agriculture.
“Solomon Islands have potential also in fish and aquaculture. At a rate of 6.5% per annum in the aquaculture consumption space, the world has a $70 billion worth in the demand for fish, marine and aquaculture resources by 2022.”
“The Pacific Island waters produce 70% of the world’s tuna supply so Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea can combine into those spaces,” Hon Marape said.
“We don’t need to build skyscrapers; we don’t have to build big technology and follow the pace of development other nations had gone through. We can step by step look into the space of food, agriculture, aquaculture and tourism. And you can sustain your economy,” he added.
He said both PNG and Solomon Islands are now breaking barriers with bilateral relationships with nations in Asia, hence, the market place is there for both countries.
“Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, from our seas and from our lands, using technology for marketing and improving productivity, we can stand to supply Asia. We cannot supply all, but we can supply the niche market that we establish contact with through political connections for the growth of agriculture.
“I encourage business people in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to not only focus on traditional business that you can engage in. The Asian market place is there to be tapped, both for import of tourists and export of our own producs especially in the food industry,” Hon Marape said.
The PNG Prime Minister said we should look to transfer the gains from our depleted non-renewable resources into agriculture, fisheries, hospitality and the tourism industry so that our people can truly be rich going into the future.
“When talking about rich, I’m not talking about money only. I’m talking about every citizen in our countries being satisfied with their lives.
“The destination I want to take PNG to connotes to satisfaction of life and not wanting to find a better life. It doesn’t only connote to money, it connotes to fullness of life, that they (citizens) are happy they are from PNG, that they are happy they are from Solomon Islands, that they are happy they are from this part of the world, and we don’t dream to live in the US. We don’t dream to live elsewhere. This is our home we must enjoy life in a country that God has given us.
“Richness does not only mean deep pockets, but a country must satisfy its citizens to the fullest and ensure that they fully empower themselves,” he said.
The future Hon Marape wants for PNG, and encourages Solomon Islands to also think in that space, is to maximise the potential of their sea and land resources taking into consideration the demand for commodities will increase with growing demand in the world market and world population.
“Through firmly based SMEs, that’s the structure of business we want to set up for Papua New Guinea. The food industry, agriculture and aquaculture as well as tourism lays the potential and we can do well for our people,” PNG Prime Minister, Hon Marape, finished.
The Prime Minister of PNG and his 65-strong delegation were hosted by SICCI members on Friday 28th February at a business luncheon held at the Mendana Hotel in Honiara.