Vanuatu experts worry about impact of COVID-19 and extreme weather on exports

Experts are concerned about the impact of the dual crisis of COVID-19 and the category 5 Tropical Cyclone Harold on Vanuatu’s exports.

However, new statistics show businesses in Vanuatu are more confident that they will survive compared to businesses in other Pacific countries. 

A VBTC news report said experts are hopeful for kava exports. 

The Trade Development Officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business, Andrea Ibba said, ‘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.”

“Many kava farmers in north (are) severely affected by TC Harold. (It) will take three-years for them to have enough supplies for the market again,” he said.

According to 2019 statistics, kava contributes to 53-per cent of the Vanuatu’s exports.

Copra makes up 15 per cent.

The most important kava export destinations are New Caledonia, Fiji, Kiribati and the United States.

Mr 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 the 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 the closure of borders and according to traders, the demand has dropped due to a stop on international tourism.

Economists in Vanuatu cannot predict how the situation will go in the recovery phase for the country.

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economy, economic growth has declined at around 0.4 per cent and 0.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Maybe with adjustments, people can adjust their behavior and we can find export again and also find demand,” Mr Ibba said.