East Africa: Indian Ocean Commission Agrees On New Platform to Facilitate Business, Trade of Agro-Food Products

Members of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) have agreed to set up a platform to facilitate business and trade of agricultural products between its member states.

Representatives of IOC's member states and its partners, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Food Agricultural Development (IFAD), met on Tuesday to discuss the progress of PRESAN.

PRESAN - the Indian Ocean Commission Regional Programme for Food Security and Nutrition, supported by the FAO - was launched in Seychelles in March this year.

Apart from the commercial aspect of the platform, it will also be used to mobilise resources in terms of donor support as well as projects to sustain the agriculture sector in the Indian Ocean.

Antoine Moustache, the principal secretary for agriculture and focal point for the PRESAN initiative in Seychelles, said that the platform will further help PRESAN in achieving its objectives.

"That is to satisfy the food and nutritional needs of the region, with that, promote healthy habits around food consumption, reduce the negative environmental and economic impacts of long-distance imports as well as creating awareness and better understanding food security issues in the Indian ocean," explained Moustache.

Moustache said that the platform will be based in Madagascar, where there is an office that acts as a central point for PRESAN.

"Our aspiration is to see all our products coming from our region, as we know the Indian Ocean have the potential," explained Moustache, adding "for instance in the context of Seychelles, we can see onions and potatoes coming from Madagascar instead of India, and that will be closer and cheaper."

But Moustache admitted that ahead lays many challenges: "There are no vessels for offering cargo service for that purpose in the region, not yet anyway."

Also some IOC members are not totally a par to basic and international standards relating to health and biosecurity regulations for the exportation of food products.

The IOC Secretary General, Hamada Madi, highlighted in his opening address at the meeting that the region has a lot of potentials, especially Madagascar - a big island with a lot of fertile areas.

Madi added that "PRESAN offers a framework of cooperation adapted to achieve the goal of sustainable development number two" zero hunger "which aims not only to eradicate hunger but also to improve access to healthy food. IOC and its partners, FAO and IFAD are supporting member states to regain food sovereignty. "

Madi further explained that "our islands, particularly Seychelles, are net importers of food and agriculture, often from distant lands. This dependence on imports results in sometimes high food costs, vulnerability to world prices and also, a significant carbon footprint," Madi concluded by adding "and yet, the Indian Ocean is able to produce enough quality food to feed the people. "

The meeting was attended by representatives from Mauritius, Reunion - a French department of the Indian Ocean, Comoros, Madagascar, and Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.

Seychelles currently holds the presidency of the Indian Ocean Commission.

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