Growing exports, and looking for new potential exports and markets were two of the main points discussed at a workshop organised by the Market Access Working Group (M.A.W.G.) of the regional Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (P.H.A.M.A.) programme.
The workshop was held last week at Saletoga Sands Resort to discuss and strategise on key issues. M.A.W.G. is the public private partnership forum that was established to address market access issues.
It is made up of government ministries (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour), state-owned enterprises (Samoa Trust Estate Corporation, and Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa), farmers’ organisations (S.A.S., W.I.B.D.I., S.F.A. and F.F.I.), Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters (S.A.M.E.), and industries (coconut, taro, cocoa, beekeeping).
The regional Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (P.H.A.M.A.), is an initiative jointly funded by Australia and New Zealand development aid programmes.
M.A.W.G. Chair and S.A.M.E President Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, said that 80 percent of Samoa’s exports are agricultural products, and emphasized the importance of the workshop outcomes for farmers and exporters to be knowledgeable of all the issues related to gaining and maintaining market access, aware of new potential exports and continuously to improve the export pathway.
P.H.A.M.A. Team Leader, Guy Redding, said stakeholders should look beyond the traditional exports and to identify where the export opportunities are for Samoa.
He said the work of M.A.W.G. in providing technical assistance to improve market access directly contribute to improving the economic growth of Samoa and create employment.
M.A.W.G. members had serious discussions and addressed issues to facilitate exports especially to identify major bottlenecks hampering farmer efforts to supply fresh produce for exports.
Issues addressed include current agricultural exports and trends, potential new agro-based products, expanding current markets, positioning Samoan products at the high-end niche market, demand for new products and challenges to the export pathway.
The coconut sector is facing supply side constraints with key challenges including aging coconut trees, rampant coconut rhinoceros beetle damaging coconut palms, and coconuts uncollected because of lack of family labour, and low prices. The positive side is with organic certification, attracting premium prices for farmers.
Cocoa was identified as another key export commodity, with a growing market in value-added cocoa-based products. Samoa’s premium cocoa quality lends well to the high-end gourmet chocolate market. Koko Samoa drinking beverage was identified as a potential commercial export commodity through improved packaging and branding, in association with food safety standards.
The farmers association of Savai’i, Sosaiete Aufaifaatoaga Savai’i (S.A.S), is stepping up efforts to increase production of new export taro varieties, having recently taken delivery of 35,000 tiapula from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The remaining 15,000 should be ready in the next few weeks.
Frozen taro exports have the potential to open new markets following the successful trial shipments to the Australian market in March 2015, and the commercialization efforts of Samoa Tradition Farmers and Growers (S.T.F.G.) to Sydney, Australia since the end of last year. The other Australia cities and the big US market for frozen taro are untapped markets.
The Samoa Trust Estate Corporation (S.T.E.C.) with access to large tracts of land is doing their part to replant coconut and cocoa to help with consistent supplies of fresh produce. The high value low volume vanilla crop is being revived as another potential export earner, and also include coconut veneer wood, packaging green drinking coconuts, and coir processing.
Trade in agriculture falls under M.C.I.L’s Trade, Commerce, and Manufacturing Sector which manages the T.C.M. donor funding to the private sector to improve coconut and noni exports.
S.R.O.S. carries out research into value-added products and conducts chemical and nutritional analysis of agricultural products as part of export quality assurance requirement. Current research work include breadfruit flour, frozen taro, frozen breadfruit, avocado oil, and liquor products.
Saints Exporters, exporter of fresh produce also faces similar challenges with supply capacity and quality. Manager Sala directly assists farmers with obtaining improved taro planting materials. New market products include yam, with particular interest for the purple variety for ice cream making, taro palagi or cocoa yam, taamu, taro powder, tahitian lime and pineapples.
Production issues have also hampered exports of Tahitian lime, following severe damage to the crop following Cyclone Evans in 2013. New plantings will take a few years to production.
Discussions also focused on the capacity and viability of the High Temperature Forced Air (H.T.F.A.) post harvest treatment facility for fruit fly host commodities, which faces viability challenges with current units in Fiji and Tonga. The use of hot water treatment for general pest disinfestation was discussed.
The M.A.W.G. public private partnership platform will continue to help farmers and exporters to grow Samoa’s exports and to facilitate technical assistance to improve market access. The technical group welcomes new potential partners and the development community to join and be instrumental in growing exports.