Lopao’o Natanielu Mu’a
Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries
I am pleased to greet you this morning and I thank you for joining us to officially open this annual Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Show for 2017.
The theme for this year’s show is “enhancing partnerships to develop and sustain agriculture and fisheries”, and it is a statement to ensure that all stakeholders acknowledge and are fully aware that no part is greater than the other, in fulfilling our common goal of progressing agriculture and fisheries, if we are to achieve our collective objectives of reaching the desired potentials outlined in our Samoa Development Strategy and Agriculture and Fisheries Sector Plan, which aims at achieving positive increased contributions to sustainable development that boosts economic growth, and enhance social development through the objectives of food and nutrition security, import substitution and export market opportunities for you the farmers and fishers and for us the buyers.
The partnership as our theme suggests reminds us of the work and the parts that we play in our individual roles in this key productive sector, and that we must become the best in our own efforts at bringing out the best that we can at this time and age, in a sustainable and resourceful manner.
Our Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is the lead government agency that works with all the stakeholders towards the established national goals, and all are designated the responsibilities in accordance with the resources, to bring about positive change or the desired outcomes over the specific sector plan timeframes, with prayer that our Lord God will continue to protect Samoa from all risks and disasters.
The Ministry continues to look into areas that can provide the best impact in solutions to assist the stakeholders, through the engagement of stakeholder working groups and consultations, and from which we continue to emphasise the importance of partnerships through this show’s theme and annual activities, that is inclusive of government and development partner dialogue which provide the required resources.
The sector still has some way to go to overcome some of the challenges that stalls the increase of production of crops and livestock into related agribusiness nationally and especially in the rural area. It is known that the number of rural households engaged in formal markets is rather low, with the majority being subsistence farmers. Agriculture is labour intensive and rural labour is becoming difficult to attract and sustain due to better wages available in our urban area and overseas opportunities offered through labour mobility schemes.
Our agricultural production systems require significant working capital yet access to credit is difficult and interest rates are high, resulting in low investment opportunities. We are appreciative of the banks which over the past years established lending schemes to assist farmers.
There is a lot to do to ensure efficient and effective farm support services including market-driven research and extension facilities to promote improved technologies, and farmer-access to improved breeding stock and planting material. We however remain positive and know that Rome was not built in a day, but it will be built and planned to be well established.
Agriculture is very much climatic dependent and hence our prayers and efforts to establish advisory services that mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, and climate variability that challenges agricultural production. Similar to the rearing and nurturing of all living things is the requirement to also keep a look out and reduce incidences that place our crops and livestock at risks of pests and diseases, and forewarn on the impacts of weather or climatic changing patterns, as well as the fertile status of our soils that affects production levels, and also advise on the introduction of technologies and methodologies that helps increase quality productivity.
We also today, remind ourselves of the oceans and its resources that continues to sustain our livelihood and leading export. The development and management of our fisheries resources is key to the development of Samoa and our food security objectives, and are thankful to our stakeholders and partners in the Fisheries sector.
The theme of our annual Agriculture and Fisheries Show is about “enhancing partnerships to develop and sustain agriculture and fisheries”, and am delighted to note the partnerships that are being showcased today and throughout the week with the relevant private sector organisations – our local farmers and fisheries associations, Women in Business Development, University of the South Pacific, and the relevant government agencies such as Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Health and Samoa Tourism Authority, with the village communities in promoting sustainable farming and fishing, healthy local foods, agroforestry, organic agriculture, Agritourism, and agriculture related study programmes, as part of our show this year.
In addressing agribusiness, we are aware of the work that is being undertaken by our Scientific Research Organisation, and am most delighted that the Breadfruit Summit is being held on our shores, “the home of the Ma’afala”, and acknowledge all the participants who have come from afar to discuss and develop partnerships, and who agree with me that, the international market for gluten-free products represents a substantial and fast-growing high-value market, from which our partnerships can benefit through our cohesive efforts as the breadfruit-growing countries for gluten-free markets.
This is an annual show that I, as the Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries wish to improve each year as a Buyers and Sellers’ Market Event, where the Buyers of Agriculture and Fisheries Products, and specifically the Cooks and Chefs of all Hotels and Restaurants, Eateries and the country at large, can come to enjoy the fruits and meats of our labour (excuse the pun), and let our farmers and fishers tell us through the suggestion box that we have at our Information booth here at the Show, what you would like our Ministry to improve in terms of support services, to enhance and sustain the supply and quality of your products for our buyers and consumers.
I also wish this annual event to be an interactive market for food businesses to meet agriculture businesses to establish contractual arrangements for food supplies at competitive prices. The Hotel Industry several years ago asked for specific vegetables and through partnership arrangements some of these are now available on our shores.
This is a show to get everyone together to talk about supplies and food, which is at the heart of all Samoans and is the fibre that weaves us together, because we are a country and region that meet and congregate for all occasions around food as an important component, and of which the success of the event is dependent on its quality and quantity.
This is an annual event also to reward those who had registered and were assessed for their quality contributions under various competition categories for crops, livestock and fisheries, which were held in the last two months, with the winners to be announced at the prize giving ceremony this Friday.
This will also include recognition awards for those who have made significant contributions to the development of our agriculture and fisheries’ national efforts.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge with much appreciation our development partners – New Zealand, Australia, People’s Republic of China, Japan, European Union, Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations Development Programme, World Bank, Forum Fisheries Agency, Pacific Community, and others – for the continuous technical assistance and financial support, towards the development and conservation of our agriculture and fisheries resources.
I would also like to acknowledge the continuous support of the Honourable Prime Minister and my Cabinet colleagues, as well as the Government Ministries and State Owned Enterprises, which with collective efforts ensures the sustainable development and management of our agriculture and fisheries’ resources.
Thank you also to our sponsors whom without, this annual show will not have been possible and especially the Government of Samoa, the private sector and development partners and the community, whose generous support we will continue to acknowledge throughout the duration of the Show, and in the local media.
To our farmers and fishers, I encourage you all to maintain your perseverance to achieve your own goals, and our Ministry will do everything we can to provide on-going support within our means to build, enhance and sustain our established partnership.
Without further ado, it is my greatest pleasure to declare our Agriculture and Fisheries Show for 2017 officially open.
Soifua ma Ia Manuia!