FAIRTRADE certified farming co-operatives and other groups from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have joined forces to set up a sub-network of suppliers of certified goods.

The number of Pacific-based Fairtrade producers, who sell commodities into the Fairtrade market, has increased from 6,000 to 20,000 since 2010.

The sub-network was established with the guidance of these producer organisations, electing a board of directors to be chaired by Fijian cane sugar grower Parbindra Singh, who is also a board member of the Fairtrade Network of Asia and Pacific Producers.

“As small farmers, we must work together to be successful in the highly competitive markets of agricultural commodities,” he said.

“Fairtrade provides an extensive platform to do just that: networking and learning.”

The constitution was the result of extensive consultation with representatives of all Fairtrade certified and applicant organisations from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, and was closely supported by Fairtrade Australia/New Zealand’s producer support team.

The Pacific Sub-Network will contribute to the Asia Pacific producer network, which along with the African and Latin American producer networks ensure that the interests of producers are recognised at Fairtrade International’s General Assembly.

The Assembly, which also brings together representatives from National Fairtrade Organisations on a 50/50 basis, decides on membership issues, approves annual accounts and ratified new board directors.

Fairtrade International-certified products are sold bearing the Fairtrade trademark – a certification requiring standards of sustainability and ensuring the grower and any workers receive what is considered a fair price, based on principles of business accountability and transparency.

The news came following Fairtrade’s launch of a good governance training module for small farmer organisations in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, in late 2014.

The training was designed in collaboration with Pacific farmers, and focuses on good governance practices such as transparency and accountability.

More than 200 board directors and management representatives of Pacific farmer organisations were trained with this module in 2014, with kits distributed to representatives for them to train other members.

Highland Organic Agriculture co-operative chairperson Daniel Kinne said the training had been useful.

“The good governance training gave us a better understanding of how we should be directing and managing our organisations, and of the roles of the board of directors, management and members,” he said.

“If we are transparent and participative, our businesses can grow stronger.”