The Government has issued a temporary ban on the exports of fresh taro corms to American Samoa.
This is according to a letter signed by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, addressed to the American Samoa Government, Department of Agriculture Director, Filifa’atali Michael Fuiava.
In June 2017, the American Samoa Government (A.S.G.) banned imported taro from Samoa.
The letter dated February 23, 2018, and obtained by the Samoa Observer indicates that American Samoa has lifted the ban, however with strict conditions which include (a) household consumption and family faalavelave; and (b) commercial use of agricultural product (taro).
Lopao’o expressed appreciation of Filifa’atali’s position that local cultivation and consumption of taro is critical to the economy and way of life in American Samoa, and the immediate precautionary action by A.S.G. to provisionally ban imports of taro from Samoa was in the best efforts of your Government to “guard against potential harm” to your local taro industry.
“As you correctly indicated, the verification of taro virus diseases can only be confirmed by specialized laboratory testing procedures."
“The new conditions we understand the D.O.A. has imposed on importers, is that Quarantine Inspectors (I understand to be American Samoan quarantine inspectors) will be required to inspect and verify the names of the farmers, locations of the farm, their mailing addresses, telephones and emails of the farmers from Samoa where the expected taro is to be supplied from."
“These conditions, I understand, are necessary for your Government to issue import permits to American Samoa."
“These conditions however do not appear to Samoa to deal directly with the issue and concern that I had initially raised; namely the guarding against potential harm to taro cultivation and consumption in American Samoa."
“We are committed to providing quality export to all our export markets.”
Lopao’o pointed out that Samoa, through the powers vested in him pursuant to the Quarantine (Biosecurity) Act 2005, in particular section 33, a public notice will be issued to advise exporters that there is a temporary ban to export fresh taro corms to American Samoa.
“It is hoped that this measure will temporarily prevent any potential harm, carried taro, reaching American Samoa whilst we collaboratively work on efforts to ensure that we provide quality and safe produce to the people of American Samoa."
“I reiterate your sentiments that we wish to proceed in a reasonable and equable way to protect the people we serve and the economy, agriculture, and environment of both American Samoa and Samoa alike."
“Consequently, I hereby request for another meeting (either here or there) to sort out our concerns with the new conditions imposed in order to arrive at an amicable solution for the mutual benefits of both our Samoan people.”
During the interview with the Samoa Observer at his office, Lopao’o said there is a need to meet with American Samoa counterparts.
“There is no taro going over to American Samoa yet, until this is sorted out. We can’t just send over taro without going through the process of the new conditions, in case they turn around and send it back to us,” said the Minister.
He said the issue at hand now is that the conditions need to be clarified between the two countries.
“The Foreign Affairs is working on setting up a meeting to go through the new conditions.”
Lopao’o is unclear when they will wrap up going through the conditions for the ban before they can actually export taro to American Samoa.