Dear Editor – When addressing the New Zealand Pacific Council in Auckland recently, Prime Minister Rick Hou spoke about the need for the Solomon Islands to gradually curtail aid and to replace it with trade.
The PM said, “It is politically and economically prudent that Solomon Islands gradually replace aid with trade, which will in turn stimulate a strong economy driven by the private sector and not the government, as the case is at the present time.”
To bring about such a change, the PM explained that the Solomon Islands was looking to review its bilateral aid assistance programs, with a view to incorporate commercial trade activities tied with manufacturing technology; so the Government could bring the technology to transform our agriculture, fisheries, and agro-forestry sector into manufacturing sectors as well.
Highlighting my own views and suggestions via the local media, Prime Minister Hou went on to add, that considerable economic benefit could be gained through trade cooperation agreements.
He said trade agreements are designed to create import/export business opportunities in fisheries and processed seafood products, down-stream processed wood products, agricultural products – coffee, pineapples, pawpaw, sugar cane, and forest products.
The PM actually missed the potential of exporting coconut water which is hugely in demand in the USA and in several S-East Asian countries.
Prime Minister Hou said the Solomon Islands has abundant resources, but faced a number of challenges that needed to be addressed before realization of harvesting the potential of trading via trade agreements. He explained these as-
“(a) Lack of technological know-how to utilize these resources to its capacity. The country has lacked up till now, appropriate technology for converting these resources into value-added marketable products for export and import substitution or domestic consumption.
“(b) There is huge potential for technology that will transform subsistence agriculture into commercial agricultural farming products, fisheries and other aquatic resources into manufactured and processed fisheries and seafood products.
Then PM then said such challenges could be addressed, ” if we remain focused and committed.”
During a recent visit to Honiara the accredited Ambassador of Israel promised to help the Solomon Islands in several ways and, if I remember correctly, with health issues and in agricultural production.
Agriculture in Israel is a highly developed industry and Israel is a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that the geography of Israel is not naturally suitable for agriculture. More than half of the land area is desert, and the climate and lack of water resources do not favour farming.
Despite such set-backs Israel produces 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this with imports of grain, oil seeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar.
Being focused and committed, as the PM said, it would seem prudent and a practical to see if the technology needed to turn local subsistence farming into commercially profitable farms could be obtained with the expertise on offer from Israel.