Food trade among Pacific Island countries and territories: implications for food security and nutrition
Globalization and Health
Background: There is growing attention to intra-regional trade in food. However, the relationship between such trade and food and nutrition is understudied. In this paper, we present an analysis of intra-regional food trade in the Pacific region, where there are major concerns regarding the nutritional implications of international food trade. Using a new regional database, we examine trends in food trade among Pacific Island Counties and Territories (PICTs) relative to extra-regional trade. Results: Intra-regional trade represents a small, but increasing proportion of total imports. The major food group traded within the Pacific is cereal grains and flour, which represented 51% of total intra-regional food trade in 2018. Processed and prepared foods, sweetened or flavoured beverages, processed fish, and sugar and confectionary are also traded in large quantities among PICTs. Trade in root crops is negligible, and overall intra-regional trade of healthy foods is limited, both in terms of tonnage and relative to imports from outside the region. Fiji remains the main source of intra-regional imports into PICTs, particularly for non-traditional staple foods. Conclusions: This study highlights the growth in trade of staple foods intra-regionally, indicating a role for Fiji (in particular) in regional food security. Within this overall pattern, there is considerable opportunity to enhance intra-regional trade in traditional staple foods, namely root crops. Looking forward, the current food system disruption arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and associated policy measures has highlighted the long-term lack of investment in agriculture, and suggests an increased role for regional approaches in fostering trade in healthy foods.
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