LINKS between markets and suppliers are important for the success of large companies and small businesses in the fisheries sector. The inaugural Pacific Seafood Exposition aims to provide a platform for this. National Fisheries Authority managing director JOHN KASU spoke to Business Reporter MARK HAIHUIE about it.
HAIHUIE: What is expected to be gained by SME operators in the fisheries sector through the inaugural Pacific Seafood Exposition?
KASU: You would remember the recent Pacific Island Leaders Forum where we talked about what to do with the benefits that we derive from the fisheries industry.
The fees that we collect from licenses is where we make the bulk of the revenue.
And from this revenue, we look at financing projects, infrastructure setups where there are markets, and wharfs being built across the country.
Madang and Wewak was last year.
There are others coming up such as in Alotau.
It is about making the most from what we are getting and to grow the industry for both large and small players.
We are trying to set up the infrastructure and try to bring in the small fisherman and create cooperatives that are SMEs.
One thing that is very critical is the market. There has to be an established market to encourage them to come in on this.
If there is no market where will they sell their products?
This is one of the important things that we are working on and will be looking at setting up the market lobby group for domestic and international markets.
One way of trying to connect all these little players is through this exposition where we bring them and try to connect them with the bigger players.
The expo is the first and after being reviewed, we hope to make it an annual event with more importers to attend.
HAIHUIE: How can provincial governments partner with the National Fisheries Authority to advance the fisheries sector and also SMEs in their respective centers?
KASU: What we have is a memorandum of understanding that is signed between the NFA and provincial governments.
Since 2001, the provincial fisheries (division) has been placed under the provincial government.
They get their funding directly from them to carry out fisheries development and management.
Through that agreement, we are able to work with the provinces by providing the support and technical assistance.
It has been working very well but I think it can go a bit further than that.
What we did two years ago is sit with all the provinces to develop a five-year plan to prioritise areas of fisheries work that we can do every year.
Under our budget we have a provincial development fund where at one stage we were supplying small boats, nets and the likes to fishermen in provinces to encourage them to fish commercially.
That had stopped for a while because we wanted to make sure that this was making some impact. The process was reviewed by the former minister and we have been chatting with the new minister about that.
The programme will be launched again.
The only thing is that we get the funds out to the small scale fishermen that need it with monitoring and evaluation of this so as to understand and better manage the impact it has and also to get feedback from those on the ground to better do this.
If it means training, that can also be done through our fisheries college in Kavieng.
The agreements are with mostly the coastal and some of the inland provinces.
We are also up in the Highlands with this and that can be demonstrated by fish famers from there being here at the expo with those from the Sirinumu dam.
There is good spread that includes inland fish farming as well.
We at NFA are aiming to build these small players through educational programmes, infrastructural developments and for the case of the Expo, to also allow for them to connect with markets
HAIHUIE: You said markets for SMEs and large players are an important aspect that determine their success. What has the NFA done to improve this for the fisheries sector?
KASU: Our biggest market is the European Union with about 90 per cent of what we export going there.
So why don’t we develop other markets so we can also supply there as well?
The European Union market is very strict with many requirements and we were yellow-carded some time back.
Only in 2015 we managed to come out of that.
I think that has proven to be good as we have set up system and processes in place to be able to regulate properly not only for Europe but also other potential markets.
HAIHUIE: What are some other international markets that can be targeted and how will this be done?
KASU: Asia, especially China, is a big market. And according to some of the exports in the area, the United States and India are also big markets.
Then there is also the Middle East which is a niche market.
These are places where we really need to work with our agencies such as the Investment Promotion Authority and (Department of) Foreign Affairs and Fisheries Industry Association. We are putting together a lobby group that will be looking at possible markets.
The initial discussion are to look at the China and United States markets first.
HAIHUIE: The NFA gave K60 million (as dividend) to the Government recently. With the current economic challenges, do you think the growth of the SMEs in fisheries can provide foreign exchange revenue to the country on top of what NFA is already contributing?
KASU: SMEs in our industry are very important and I think we need to encourage that.
And they can also bring in revenue if we provide the right environment for them to grow.
One of the things we have been trying to do is to sit down with relevant politicians and in terms of the DSIP (district service improvement programme) funds.
What I have been telling them is that we can work with you in
the provinces, look at your provincial fisheries programme and prioritise them over the five-year plan.
You can put some funds and we can put some funds and work together.
We can provide the expertise, build the wharfs and facilities that are needed.
There have been a number of positive feedbacks from the politicians on this.
Some of them have already approached us to work with their teams to develop something to do within their five-year term.