Politician La’auli Leuatea Polata’ivao is a man on a mission.
As the new Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, he wants to save the millions that are being spent on imported vegetables by encouraging the community to plant their own and buy locally. This is one of La’auli’s goals for the next five years.
And he is not wasting time. A few months into his new role, La’auli told the Samoa Observer there is a project in the pipeline to encourage local farmers to plant vegetables.
If successful, it could save the country more than $5million annually. “Our Ministry is pushing to at least substitute the import of vegetables with ones we can grow locally,” the Minister said.
“We are spending $4 - $5million tala each year to buy vegetables such as cabbages, lettuce, carrots, onions, tomatoes, etc from overseas.
“Under a new project, we will soon be helping farmers mechanize their farms especially in vegetables growing.
“I totally believe these things can be done so we can save money we currently spend buying the same goods from overseas when we can grown them locally and supply our supermarkets and hotels so farmers can have a regular income from the goods they grow for the major part of the year.”
La’auli added that success would not happen overnight but he is confident.
To achieve the set goal, he said it would require a commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture and the extension network to help the farmers and funds to support the projects.
According to the Samoa Bureau of Statistics, Local Market Survey April 2016, there was a significant reduction in the supply of tomato, coconut, taro, banana and pumpkin.
The report also emphasised that the limited supply of some of the vegetables led to rise in the average price.
“The supply of vegetable produce to the local markets in April 2016 experienced significant gains in all vegetables with the exception of tomato supplies recording an 88percent decline in volume (to 48pounds) and pumpkin supplies recording a 3percent decrease (to 20, 816 pounds) from the previous month,” stated the survey.
“Head cabbage supplies recorded the greatest gains with 49percent (to 2, 371 pounds) while cucumber and Chinese cabbage supplies both increased 12percent (to 937 pounds) and 6percent (to 220 pounds) respectively.
“Driven by domestic demand, head cabbage was the vegetable of choice at the local markets in April 2016 recording a 2percent price increase (to $3.69per pound).
“Limited supply, however, led to a 35percent rise in the average price of tomato (to $7.86per pound) and a 2percent increase in the average price of pumpkin (to $1.31 per pound).
“An abundance of Chinese cabbage and cucumber supplies led to the decline in their average prices with Chinese cabbage prices falling 11percent while cucumber prices shrunk 3percent respectively from the previous month.”
Back to the Minister and his plans, he said there is always a market for coconuts and so is the push for planting more coconuts, cocoa and coffee.
“We launched the Stimulus Package two days ago to increase our production in major crops such as coconuts, cocoa, coffee and over a 4 to 5 year period,” he said.
“We should have at least 50,000 new coconuts, 400,000 new cocoa plants, 125,000 coffee plants before the programme ends in the next 4 years. The potential for the export markets for these products is very good with coconut cream, virgin coconut oil, Samoan cocoa for chocolate making and coffee.”
While the ministry has been conducting the stimulus package for the past years a survey about coconut supply says otherwise.
From the Local Market Survey April 2016, it pointed out that the supply of coconut decreased by 38percent from March 2016 while limited availability pushes its average price up by 11percent.
Currently availability of coconut was 25percent lower than average availability in April 2015 while average price rose by 7percent.