The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, has accused the American Samoa government of dragging their feet in lifting the ban they placed on taro exports from Samoa.
Speaking to The Weekend Observer, Minister Lopao’o said he is puzzled by the behaviour of the American Samoa government – especially when some of their own residents have been asking Samoa to supply them with taro.
According to the Minister, since the announcement of their intention to lift the ban, they have been trying to communicate with the relevant officials in the territory.
He said they had sent another letter during the holidays asking American Samoa to consider lifting its ban prior to March 2018, the schedule date they intend to lift the ban.
“What’s puzzling is that American Samoa is only a small market compared to the bigger markets that we cater for such as Hawaii and Utah, and yet they are giving us the run around,” Lopao’o said.
The ban by American Samoa was imposed last year.
In June 2017, American Samoa Director of Agriculture, Filifa’atali Mike Fuiava, said they were concerned by an unknown virus that broke out in Samoa affecting taro crops in Savai’i and Upolu.
He noted the need to take every precautionary measure to make sure this unknown virus would not enter American Samoa.
He said he did not want to experience another epidemic like the taro leaf blight of 1993-1994.
The D.O.A. director said lifting the suspension would depend on test results of taro samples affected by the disease, which were being sent to Germany.
Lopao’o told the Samoa Observer people who suffer are in American Samoa.
“I receive calls from American Samoans, asking me if there is a way that I can lift the ban or if we can just send over the taro and pay no attention to American Samoa’s ban,” he said.
“I can’t do that so I sent over a letter to Filifa’atali to reconsider his decision.
“We have made an effort to comply with requirements set forth by American Samoa to lift its taro ban imports from Samoa.
“My concern is that our farmers are suffering and those in American Samoa are literally calling us to send over taro.”
According to the Minister, even the date they claim the ban will be lifted is uncertain.
“There is no clear indication from American Samoa they will proceed to lift the ban in March, 2018,” he said.
Emails sent to Filifa’atali have not been answered as of press time.