Samoa urges community support to buy fresh and frozen taro

Local Samoan communities in New Zealand and Australia have been urged to support products from Samoa by purchasing fresh taro and a range of new frozen products launched last week at Fale o Samoa in Mangere, Auckland. The new line of frozen products included breadfruit, taro, taamu (Alocasia macrorrhiza) and manioc.

Frozen taro and breadfruit from Samoa destined for the New Zealand.

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS), Hon. Laaulialemalietoa Asiata Leuatea P.F. Schmidt launched the new frozen products in front of some 200 people and Samoan media. Minister Laaulialemalietoa Schmidt said they knew that 90 per cent of people who consumed taro in New Zealand were Samoan and he urged them to consider buying Samoa’s fresh and frozen produce.

A blessing of the launch was made by Father Michael Endemann followed the Minister’s keynote address and then short speeches from the Samoan exporter Jacinta Silva and New Zealand Labour MP Aupito Su’a William Sio before ending with refreshments that included taro samples.

Minister Laaulialemalietoa Asiasta Leuatea P.F. Schmidt (centre), Samoa Trade Commissioner (left) Fonoti Dr Lafitai Fuatai and PTI Trade Development Manager Joe Fuavao (right).

Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand has worked closely with exporters and key stakeholders from taro industry in Samoa to help grow exports to New Zealand. The value of fresh taro exports from Samoa has significantly increased from about NZ$600,000 in 2014 to NZ$2.1 million in 2016. PTI Trade Development Manager Joe Fuavao said, “The volume of taro exports from Samoa to New Zealand are gradually building and it is important that strict level of quality control is maintained to ensure that this trend continues. This aligns well with the proactive role that the Government of Samoa is taking on enforcing strict quality standards and systems for export.”

Samoa’s fresh taro exports were halted indefinitely when taro leaf blight devastated Samoan taro in 1993. The taro blight wiped out a multi-million-dollar taro industry for Samoa and exports fell dramatically from 100 containers monthly. After years of research and development, Samoa has gradually built its exports to about 20 containers a month.

Minister Laaulialemalietoa Schmidt said, “So here we are again, taro is coming back through fresh and frozen commodities. This was very important for the economic development of Samoa over the past 30 years.”

“Some 60-70% of Samoa’s economic development depends on agriculture,” he said.  “The launch was important because sales would go back to the farmers directly.

“Not everyone in Samoa works in factories, has businesses, works in government — 80% of our people are traditional people who work on the land.”

Samoa’s cross breeding research has resulted in the development of several varieties of taro. Five taro varieties were identified for the export market.

“An awareness and improved understanding of the unique attributes of each variety (for example such as taste profiles and health benefits) could open doors to new markets for Samoan taro exporters,” PTI’s Joe Fuavao said.

The launch was an important occasion for the Government of Samoa and the Samoan community.   Although New Zealand re-opened the market for Samoa’s taro four years ago, this is the first time in more than 20 years that frozen taro had been exported into New Zealand and Australia markets.

Minister Laaulialemalietoa Schmidt said frozen taro was a new idea and they were building their capacity to supply taro to range of markets. The frozen products had a shelf life of 6-7 months and was processed, packaged and exported to the market’s requirements. It was also the only way to overcome all the biosecurity requirements of New Zealand the Minister said.

Frozen taro exports to Australia has grown with four containers launched in Melbourne and another four in Brisbane in May and a total of 15 containers was exported to Sydney over the past 18 months.  Samoa frozen taro launches have been planned in Wellington and Christchurch next month.

For more information contact: Joe Fuavao, PTI NZ Trade Development Manager at Joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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