Background: Non communicable diseases (NCD) impose a significant burden on Fiji. Food-related policies designed to curb NCDs have been implemented in Fiji, including a 32% increase in palm oil import duty (2012). Studying the development and implementation of such policies should provide valuable insights on policy making process and its effectiveness.
Aim: To analyse the development and implementation of the palm oil import duty policy in Fiji. More specifically, to document the policy process, identify barriers and facilitators during implementation and to examine the impact of the new import duty.
Methods: Based on a case study approach, data were collected through key informant interviews with private stakeholders, government officials and supermarket managers. Transcripts were analysed thematically. National import data and prices were analysed for the 2010–2014 period.
Results: Facilitators to policy implementation included awareness, preparation of a comprehensive policy briefing paper, and inter-sectorial support and leadership. Barriers included counter lobbying from retailers and the political environment. Import volume abruptly declined after the policy was implemented in 2012. The decrease in availability of palm oil as a result of the price rise was encouraging. However this was counteracted to some extent by industry moves to mislabel the product as vegetable oil.
Discussion: Potential unintended side-effects of policy changes need to be considered and addressed during policy formulation. Whilst the decline in imports probably decreased consumption, further research is needed to determine if this translated to a population wide reduction in NCD risk.