A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
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Monday, June 23, 2008
Posted 1:30 PM by Tevita
Pacific Islands hit by high world food prices
From : Agence France-Presse
WELLINGTON - While leaders from around the world argued about how to blunt the impact of soaring food prices in Rome earlier this month, Pacific Islanders were wondering how they would feed their families.
In the Northern Mariana Islands, Lili George, a cook from the Philippines, said she was contemplating going home after 14 years in the capital Saipan.
"Food prices had gone up by over 50 percent recently," she said. "I am planning to go home if things don't get better in the next few months."
Janet Gogue, 31, a mother of four on the island of Guam, says she cannot keep up with the speed of price rises.
"In the last couple of months, food prices continue to go up and it seems like it never stops," Gogue said.
"The last time I bought a 50-pound (22.7-kilogram) bag of rice, it was just a little over 20 US dollars," she said. "I went shopping yesterday and found that the same bag now costs almost 30 dollars."
In the Marshall Islands, government power utility worker Ambi Amram is supporting a household of eight and used to bring home two 20-pound (9.1-kilogram) bags of rice every fortnight.
"Now, I can only afford one bag of rice that has to last us two weeks," he said.
He is supplementing meals with local foods such as breadfruit but in the crowded capital Majuro, there is hardly any spare space for people to grow their own food.
Local agriculture has dwindled on most Pacific islands in the face of cheap food imports.
But imports are no longer cheap thanks to the double whammy of much higher commodity prices -- especially for the islands' staple of rice -- and soaring fuel costs.
The New Caledonia-based regional organization, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, told the world food summit in Rome that urban poor in the Pacific Islands are the worst affected.
Many remote communities still largely rely on subsistence agriculture, growing their own crops and fishing. But rapid population increases has led to the growth of sprawling towns throughout the region.
"In Fiji, for example the poorest 10 percent of the population spend between 50 to 65 percent of their income on food whereas the richest 10 percent spend less than 20 percent on food," the SPC said.
-- High food prices could push more islanders into poverty --
A study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) released last month found that recent increases in world food prices could push another five percent of low income families in the Pacific into poverty this year.
The leader of the study, ADB economist Craig Sugden, said the number of people who will be badly hurt will depend on the response of regional governments. But he warned it could be in the tens of thousands.
"A lot of people are going to suffer. They may go very hungry and face having a very poor diet," he said.
In Fiji, the military government has removed duties on basic food imports to reduce the impact of higher food costs.
From this month, duty has been removed on white and brown rice, tinned fish and cooking oil, and taxes have been removed from local eggs.
The country's military leader Voreqe Bainimarama has also appealed to Fijians to grow more of their own food.
"The only sustainable solution to combating rising food prices is to grow more of our own produce," he said.
Agriculture has been neglected in recent decades in the region and will take years to rebuild. For those who live on coral atolls, where soils are thin or nonexistent and water often in short supply, the options are limited.
Most islands can grow at least some root crops such as taro, however, and they may have to wean themselves off once cheap imported rice.
"For too long our children have been fed on rice as staple food because of the convenience of preparation and storage," President Manny Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia said recently.
"We have neglected our responsibility and even contributed to their lower health standards by failing to teach them to appreciate the natural food and bounty of our islands."
Cheap imported foods have been blamed for spiralling rates of obesity in the Pacific Islands, so a return to local traditional foods would also play an important part in improving the health of islanders.
World Health Organization figures show Pacific Island nations make up eight of the world's 10 most obese countries, and this has created soaring rates of previously nearly unknown problems including diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
But imports are likely to continue playing a big role in feeding the people of the Pacific islands as the region's population is forecast to grow to 14 million in the next 20 years, from the current 9.5 million.
Courtesy of Island Food Network
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