A new koko nursery, launched in Asau yesterday under the auspices of the award-winning Whittaker’s–Va’ai Partnership, and with support from New Zealand — looks set to help further develop Samoa’s burgeoning koko industry and grow Samoa’s koko export production.
During the koko halcyon days of the 1960s, Samoa exported around 5,000 tonnes of koko, annually; that figure currently sits at about 40 to 50 tonnes, per year.
“The seeds of the Whittaker’s–Va’ai partnership were actually sown over 50 years ago — my grandfather was supplying J.H. Whittaker & Sons with Savai’i cocoa beans when he was running the Va’ai Plantation,” said Tupa’i Saleimoa Va’ai of Savai’i Koko, the Partnership’s lead in-country stakeholder.
“Initially, we had 91 farmers working with us to meet Whittaker’s supply requirements — we now have around 430 farmers from across both Savaii and Upolu.”
“Our goal is not only to strengthen the supply chain for this Partnership, but to increase the vitality, returns and resilience of the Samoan cocoa industry overall.”
For Keith Budd of S.P.S. Biosecurity, the Partnership’s horticultural post-harvest expert, the opening of the nursery reinforces the commitment both S.P.S. Biosecurity and Whittaker’s have in revitalising Samoa’s cocoa production and exports.
“Being able to identify high performance koko plants for propagation, and having a nursery facility to cultivate these plants in, is really significant,” Mr. Budd said.
“Through the Whittaker’s–Va’ai Partnership, we are already working closely with local growers to improve cocoa farming systems and rehabilitate overgrown plantations.”
“Now, with the new nursery, we can really focus in on developing yield and character in new plantings — increasing agricultural resilience and potential — all with the view to producing larger amounts of high value, chocolate quality cocoa.”
Last week, New Zealand High Commissioner to Samoa, David Nicholson, presented an award at the National Agriculture Show, recognising the contribution of the Whittaker’s–Va’ai Partnership in leading Samoa’s cocoa ‘renaissance’.
Both the Whittaker’s–Va’ai Partnership (which is also co-funded by J.H. Whittaker & Sons) and the Samoa Cocoa Export Improvement Programme receive funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme, administered by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.