Vanuatu agriculture to receive VT1 billion as business feels COVID-19 impact

The Council of Ministers has approved the use of VT1billion (US$8.7 million) from the stimulus package to develop agriculture production in Vanuatu.

This was confirmed by the Economic Stabilisation Package team leader, Rex Willie.

He said this money will be removed from the Employment Stabilisation Package.

“If we have problems with imports of goods or jobs losses, we have agriculture to substitute,” said Willie.

At the recent opening of the Agriculture Show in Port Vila the Prime Minister announced 21% of next year’s national budget will be put into Ministry of Agriculture.

As Vanuatu government redirects it focus, other businesses in Vanuatu and around the region continue to suffer.

A recent Pacific Business Monitor Report showed that uncertainty is the key challenge facing Pacific businesses.

Ninety-three per cent of Pacific businesses reported that not knowing how long the COVID-19 crisis will last is their main challenge.

The results have been published in the fourth PTI Pacific Business Monitor (PBM) which reports on a survey taken between 29 June and 12 July.  The PBM conducts regular surveys tracking business sentiment across the Pacific with the aim of helping governments and policy-makers to respond more effectively to the impact of COVID-19.

“The uncertainty of how long COVID-19 will last …has been consistently the top challenge faced by businesses since our first survey in March 2020,” said Caleb Jarvis, Trade & Investment Commissioner, Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Australia.

Although the Pacific remains relatively COVID-19 free it is feeling the impact of the changing impact of the pandemic globally.

“Here in Australia, where we thought we had the pandemic under control, Melbourne has gone back into lock-down and Sydney is dealing with managing a small outbreak,” Commissioner Jarvis noted. 

“It puts back into question when international travel can safely resume making it extremely difficult for businesses in the Pacific to plan forward especially industries such as tourism that are reliant on borders being open. 

Commissioner Jarvis said uncertainty is reflected in business predictions about when they will get back to businesses to normal.

One-quarter of businesses are unsure when that will happen and 20 per cent do not expect their revenue to return to pre-COVID-19 level until 2022 or later.”

The survey also showed that more businesses need financial support. In survey four, 57 per cent of businesses said they need financial support up from 49 per cent two weeks earlier. 

Despite the difficulties, Caleb Jarvis said there are signs that businesses are adjusting to the new normal.

“Even with 88 per cent of businesses reporting a decline in their revenue, it’s encouraging to see that the number of businesses reporting that they are reducing working hours and staff numbers has decreased, which shows a small number of businesses are beginning to find stability and a new way of operating,” Jarvis said. 

The negative toll on the mental health of business owners is also easing.

The number of business owners reporting a ‘very negative’ impact on their mental health has halved since the last survey and more says they are feeling ‘optimistic’ or ‘happy’.

“The private sector will be key in rebuilding Pacific economies,” Jarvis said.

“As we can see through the global uncertainty COVID-19 has created it’s going to be a very long-road ahead. 

PTI will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 is having on businesses and to inform governments, donors and stakeholders of the realities that the Pacific’s private sector is facing....


Photo source Vanuatu DARD