Taro virus alarms farmers

By Ilia L. Likou ,

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Moe Paono from Mauga Savai’i

Moe Paono from Mauga Savai’i (Photo: Misiona Simo)

Farmers have expressed growing concerns about a new unknown virus found in taro in some parts of Upolu.

Despite the assurance from the Ministry of Agriculture that the nation has nothing to worry about in terms of a new unknown virus, farmers worry about the future of the crop.

It was not possible to get a comment from the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday.

But 46-year-old farmer from Mauga Savai’i, Moe Paono, said the absence of an update about the state of the virus which surfaced at the beginning of last month is concerning.

 “I’m from Savai’i and even though I haven’t received any confirmation about the virus crossing over to our island, I still worry,” he said.

 “What we were told (on the media) a number of weeks ago is that the government banned the transportation of taro shoots between the two islands (Savai’i and Upolu).

“In my opinion, there is no guarantee that the idea will stop the spread of the virus to parts of Savai’i, Apolima and Manono.”

Moe went on to say that the ministry should work together with all the farmers in the country.

“I think they should prioritise ways to work together with everyone (farmers) but not just the affected parts of the country here in Upolu.

“We may never know what tomorrow will bring. There’s no time to wait on those samples...but I think the idea is to ‘work together’...they should let us know that these are some of the ways where we can protect our crops.”

Another farmer, Toa’e Lemigao from Tanumalala agrees.

“The disease could lead to a huge loss in our economy especially because most of our people rely on taro plantation.”

The disease could lead to a huge loss in our economy especially because most of our people rely on taro plantation.
The disease could lead to a huge loss in our economy especially because most of our people rely on taro plantation.

Toa’e said the government should keep the public well informed.

“We need to know what is happening.

“All we heard is that there is a new virus but apart from that we haven’t been told anything else. 

 “No further notices. It seems to me that they’re saying that there’s nothing to worry about. That’s fine but what if it grows and becomes another taro leaf plight?”

Last month, the American Samoa Department of Agriculture suspended importing taro and taro shoots from Samoa.

 “I mean that’s not small,” Toa’e said.

“What will happen when other countries suspend the export of our taro? We should be talking about this. The government should be working with farmers on ways to prevent this from spreading.

“As a farmer, I’m very worried about the virus. The virus could result in the severe loss of income for us and the economy will eventually be affected.

“I mean taro is not only to feed my family, but also to put my children in school.”

The farmers believe prevention is better than cure.

 “I don’t want to remember the taro leaf blight (lega) and how it devastated Samoa back in the 1990s. This is why we have to be proactive about this.”

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