DELEGATES of the Solomon Islands Timber Export Mission to New Zealand have described their experience as “invaluable”.
The mission comprising eight timber exporters also visited Australia as part of a fact finding mission and to meet with their importer-customers in the two countries earlier this month.
New Zealand and Australia are major export markets for the country’s sawn timber products accounting for about 60 per cent of its approximately A$13 million annual exports. The industry employs about 1000 Solomon Islanders in communities scattered throughout the country.
The visit was an opportunity for delegates to get a first-hand experience of their biggest export markets, meeting with customers, trade bodies and government officials.
In Auckland, they held meetings with representatives from the New Zealand Timber Importers Association at the Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I) offices.
An important learning for the visiting exporters was the potential size of the market in New Zealand. At a debrief session at PT&I, Pacific Horticultural & Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) programme consultant Andrew Piper, who accompanied the delegation, said that the demand for Solomon Islands timber was strong in both countries with New Zealand buyers wanting to buy up to five times more if quality standards were raised.
The products needed to be finished to a greater degree than they were at present, with this value addition done before the merchandise left the Solomon Islands.
This, however, would mean investment in machinery and training of personnel, something that needed to be addressed at several levels.
Another important issue for the exporters was to gain clarity from the timber industries in Australia and New Zealand on timber legality verification and quality assurance.
Discussions focused on market requirements for timber legality, verification of forestry certification, timber quality and presentation, processing, end-product requirements, supply consistency, fumigation, grading and availability, besides potential markets for alternate species.
The findings from the mission will be shared in the Solomon Islands adding to the further development of the timber export industry.
Introduction of strong rules ensuring sustainable forestry and tightening of laws around illegal logging and importation has meant that the industry has to deal with ever increasing compliance regimes.
In November 2014, Australia amended regulations on importing illegally logged timber under the Australian Illegal Prohibition Act (IPLA).
Australia however, made it a criminal offence to import illegally logged timber about 2 years ago. Although New Zealand has a voluntary code of practice it could be expected to follow a path similar to that of the European Community and the United States where it is a requirement to show the legal origin of imported forestry products.
“Such fact-finding and exploratory in-market missions are key in our work to help facilitate trade.
The supply and demand of products at both market-ends may appear viable, but if the technical barriers to trade such as technical regulations, standards and certification procedures are not in place, then it can pose unnecessary obstacles to trade,” PT&I Trade Development Manager, Mona Mato said.
The PT&I Marketing and Communication team arranged media interviews with members of the delegation during their Auckland visit and helped with media coverage in New Zealand and internationally.
The PHAMA programme funded the mission through Australia and New Zealand Aid. Andrew Piper accompanied the delegations as the PHAMA representative and the organisers were Dale Hamilton of PHAMA, Guy Redding, Team Leader at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) with support from PT&I’s Mona Mato.