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The dual crisis of COVID-19 and the impact of the category 5 Cyclone Harold on Vanuatu’s exports has experts worried.
But new statistics show businesses in Vanuatu are more confident they will survive than are businesses in other Pacific countries and there is hope for kava exports.
“This is a really horrible situation to have both disasters. COVID-19 has killed demand and accessibility to international market while TC Harold has killed supplies, so it’s a very difficult situation for Vanuatu,” said Andrea Ibba, Trade Development officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business
“Many Kava farmers in north (are) severely affected by TC Harold. (It) will take three years for them have enough supplies for the market again,” he said.
Kava now contributes at 53% of the exports according to 2019 statistics and Copra at 15%.
The most important export destinations for kava are New Caledonia, Fiji, Kiribati and the United States.
Andrea Ibba said due to borders closing no export destinations can be reached and many kava exports are now stuck in New Zealand unable to travel to their next destination.
However, the lifting of kava restrictions in New Caledonia has given hope to kava farmers.
Other major export commodities are coconut oil, cocoa and coffee.
Cocoa and coffee are also badly affected due to closing of borders and demand has dropped due to a stop on international tourism according to traders.
Economists here in Vanuatu cannot predict how the situation will go for Vanuatu in the recovery phase, but there is already a big drop in the economic growth at around 0.4% and 0.6% of GDP according to the Ministry of Finance and Economy.
“Maybe with adjustments, people can adjust their behavior and we can find export again and also find demand,” Andrea Ibba said.
New research shows other Pacific countries are suffering the same problems as Vanuatu.
A ground-breaking survey by Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) shows extreme weather negatively impacted sixty-five per cent of Pacific Island exporters over the past year.
“That's staggering. That's a huge percentage of businesses,” said Pacific Trade Commissioner Caleb Jarvis, who was part of the team that commissioned the survey.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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