The Samoa Trust Estate Corporation (S.T.E.C.) is not a government entity.
They operate as part of the private sector.
This is according to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, in response to questions on why S.T.E.C. is competing with the private sector.
S.T.E.C. Interim Manager, Jasmine Leota, had rejected concerns they are competing with the private sector in exporting coconuts.
“What competition,” she said. “We are helping the small farmers and families in Savai’i. We buy the popo off of them to fill our container. There is no competition here.”
Leota’s response was sought after concerns expressed by some business people in Savai’i who say the government shouldn’t be competing with the private sector.
The man who spoke to the Samoa Observer asked for his name to be withheld because he fears the repercussions on his business if the government learns of his identity.
But Leota is adamant that S.T.E.C. is lending a helping hand to small farmers.
According to Leota, they have a 300-acre coconut farm in Mulifanua; however they still need the farmer’s assistance because of the demand for popo.
During the interview with Tuilaepa, he made it clear that S.T.E.C. operates as a private sector.
“They are working on big projects, all efforts to utilize all those lands productively,” he said.
The Prime Minister also pointed out there is a huge market overseas and one exporter such as S.T.E.C. cannot sustain the export of coconuts for all the overseas market.
“There is a huge market overseas and one exporter cannot sustain the exports,” he said.
As reported earlier, Leota told the Samoa Observer they send one container a month to New Zealand and this market came through from the Chamber of Commerce.
“Keep in mind that we are a corporation, we don’t get any financial budget from the Government."
“We find ways to collect revenues and so we send the popo and koko Samoa off island."
“And we are not competing against anyone."
“We help the families in Savai’i from the villages of Sapapali’i, Paia, Safa’i and Papa."
“And this is because we want to sustain the market and we cannot depend on the coconuts collected from our farm in Mulifanua and so we started a program where we ask the villages to gather coconuts from the families.”