Farmers call to lift taro ban

By Joyetter Luamanu ,

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Samoan Taro

Samoan Taro (Photo: Samoa Observer / File)

Farmers in American Samoa cannot meet the demand for taro in the territory.

This is according to one of the biggest taro farmers on the island, Atualevao Asifoa.

In June 2017 American Samoa Department of Agriculture suspended importing of all taro and taro shoots from Samoa. 

The director of Agriculture in American Samoa, Filifa'atali Mike Fuiava, said the decision was due to an unknown virus affecting taro in Samoa.

Last week, Filifaatali was informed that American Samoa farmers cannot meet the public demand and he has been urged to lift the ban.

According to Talanei news, Atualevao was among the farmers at the meeting.

He was vocal about allowing taro from Samoa. 

“If the suspension of taro exports is lifted there should be some changes to ensure that unwanted weeds and pests are prevented from entering the territory,” he said. 

Atualevao told the meeting, that he’s seen taro from Samoa, which arrives in the territory with dirt and he suspects this is responsible for spreading a pest weed called “vaofefe palagi” in the territory.

Atualevao said the territory needs taro from Samoa as the local supply is not enough.

He also suggested that the Department of Agriculture impose certain requirements if the suspension is lifted. 

Atualevao recommended that taro suppliers in Samoa clean their taro just like they do for taro sent to Hawaii and the United States.

Another recommendation from Atualevao was to cut off middlemen who just go around Upolu and Savai’i buying taro from farmers, then putting them in sacks without cleaning and exporting them.

Another farmer, Tuputala Sagapolutele, said rather than Department of Agriculture (D.O.A) asking them if they can meet the demand for taro, D.O.A should conduct a survey.

Agriculture Director Filifaatali told farmers if taros are being allowed in with dirt it means his department is not doing its job.

The director said that changes would be made when the suspension of taro from Samoa is lifted

American Samoa D.O.A. will require that only bonafide farmers from Samoa will send their taro to American Samoa and that will cut off the middlemen. 

“The name of the farmer and their business license must be provided. And D.O.A will require that the taro be cleaned or they will not be allowed in.” 

Filifaatali said this would also help trace the source of any bad taro or disease.

The director moved to dispel suggestions that the reason for the prolonged suspension is to help local farmers sell their produce. 

The reason why the temporary ban is still in place is because they haven’t received results of tests done on taro affected by the recent taro disease. 

Last week, American Samoa Representative, Toeina Faufano Autele, was in Samoa to investigate the “extreme” move by the American Samoa Department of Agriculture Director, Filifa’atali Mike Fuiava, to suspend importing taro and taro shoots from Samoa. 

A member of the House Agriculture Committee, Toeina met with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and said: “I hope this issue will be amicably resolved in the near future.” 

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