The Attorney General, Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Enterprise Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum may be misleading the people of Fiji by not stating truth, which is a breach of operational procedure by Biosecurity Authority of Fiji led to New Zealand Authorities suspending import of eggplants, mango, breadfruit and papaya (pawpaw) from Fiji into NZ.
Our investigation has established that treatment procedures were breached on 29th July while processing a shipment of eggplants to New Zealand by the biosecurity personnel overseeing the process involving the High Temperature Forced Air (HFTA) treatment facility at Nadi Airport.
This breach involved treating eggplants at the HFTA facility at a temperature of 17 degrees Celsius (°C) instead of completing the treatment at a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (°C). The consignment of eggplants was belonged to a Western Division based exporter.
We have also established that the biosecurity officer overseeing the treatment, gave his approval for the consignment to be exported and signed on the relevant documents despite knowing that the treatment had breached procedures agreed to between the two countries. The documentation is known as phytosanitary certification.
New Zealand’s Import Health Standard has stringent treatment requirements for breadfruit and fresh fruit/vegetables to be exported from Fiji. The NZ Import Health Standard (Section 6.1.4) requires a completed phytosanitary certificate to be issued by Biosecurity Fiji. This certificate must accompany all exports of breadfruit, fresh fruit/vegetables to New Zealand. New Zealand requires a thorough inspection of the produce and an agreed treatment that is effective against fruit flies. This treatment is the HFTA – High Temperature Forced Air treatment of produce at 20 degrees Celsius (°C).
Instead of defending Biosecurity Fiji, which is being operated like Fiji Sugar Corporation with an Executive Chairman, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum should say why this happened in the first place resulting in the ban, which is causing losses to local farmers. We wonder, why?
He must also ensure that the Executive Chairman of Biosecurity Fiji, who undoubtedly is involved in the so-called audit of the process involving treatment of local produce for export, does not shift the blame and penalise anyone for the failure of check and balance in Biosecurity Fiji to camouflage structural deficiencies created by the monopolistic hold on power and authority by the Executive Chairman.
The onus is now on Mr Sayed-Khaiyum to admit that Biosecurity Fiji is causing losses to farmers because of its ignorance of fundamental procedures and reassure farmers and exporters, as well as New Zealand authorities that this will not be repeated.
Prof Biman Prasad