Banana farmers at Magiagi have received 2,000 banana suckers of the Israel variety from the latest shipment allocated to those whose banana crops were affected by Cyclone Gita.
Village Mayor, Luafau Leia Amaasu, said the village is grateful and given their reputation as strong banana growers, they are delighted.
With 80 acres of land for taro, cocoa and banana, Luafau is the largest banana grower in his village. He received 600 banana suckers.
He said that after all the controversy over the distribution system of the Israel bananas and concerns raised over why Magiagi was reserved 2000 bananas in the first place, it still wasn’t enough to cover all the banana growers of his village.
According to Luafau, he estimates that there are around 40 families who grow bananas in Magiagi and whose supply was badly affect by Cyclone Gita.
Ideally he wanted all the farming families to receive the Israel bananas. He’s aware of frustration of some farmers who wanted to replace their damaged crops with this variety.
On the other hand he understands that this variety was specifically chosen to satisfy the exports market in New Zealand and Samoa will find it hard to maintain consistency if they receive small amounts of bunches at a time.
“Not everyone in the village received bananas from the latest shipment,” he said.
“When we had a village meeting, there were many people who did not want a lot of bananas. Some only wanted between 10 -20 suckers because they knew that they couldn’t afford the high costs of the maintenance.
“Some came towards the end looking for bananas but they had already been divided. I said to them to be patient there will be another shipment.”
According to Luafau the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua came often to Magiagi to follow up on his market research of banana growers.
“The Minister came many times to visit our village, he would drive here and observe the plantations,” said Luafau.
“I think he must be out of his mind circling around the island like that but I like this kind of Minister because there’s been many ministers before who just sit and rock in their office chairs but not this guy.
“I was shocked when he came to see me saying that he had just finished looking around Magiagi village. Even though it was almost evening, we went up to my banana plantation so he could have a look.”
Luafau’s family have been growing bananas commercially for generations and he reveals he prefers the common variety of bananas (fa’i palagi) which he may return to farming if the Israel bananas become too expensive to maintain.
“I stopped investing my resources into my old patch of the fa’i palagi to focus on the Israel bananas because it is very expensive to meet the standard New Zealand market expects. The Minister wanted these bananas for export which is why he didn’t want this business of a few bunches of bananas here and there because we can’t fill a container with those small numbers.”
So’otagamalii Malaeafoa Auelua is another banana grower in Magiagi whose crops were destroyed during cyclone Gita. He received received 400 suckers.
Depending on the harvest, So’otagamalii says that he is still in two minds about whether he will focus on the export the bananas.
“I’ve been thinking about whether I will grow these for export, we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
“This is the first time I have been growing this variety. We have been supplying the local market with the old variety of bananas but I see the government is depending on these Israeli bananas for export so I’m just going to try and see if the harvest is good and whether I can satisfy that export market.
“But if not there’s other markets here like businesses that make the banana chips and just the fruit and veggie market here.
“It wasn’t easy to distribute these bananas because many people wanted them. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries came to talk to us about the different way of growing and maintaining this variety because it’s not easy to grow this type and it’s expensive.”