The Japan Trade and Investment Mission at Taumeasina Island Resort yesterday provided an avenue for small businesses to build bridges with potential markets in Japan.
Led by Japan Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Masakazu Hamachi, the mission saw the exchange of information as well as discussions about investment opportunities for the two countries.
Small businesses and local farmers were part of the seminar. Among them was the Samoa Coconut Cluster Company, which focuses mainly on virgin coconut oil.
Owned by local farmers, Edwin Tamasese, Alo Kolone Vaai and Isaako Aipovi, the trio realised the value of virgin oil and decided to start up the business.
“We knew there is a big market for V.C.O. (virgin coconut oil) overseas,” said Alo Kolone.
“We all used to be with W.I.B.D.I. (Women in Business) and then we decided to work on this but by using machineries and technology to make the oil. It is pure coconut oil unlike the refined one.”
The difference as Alo pointed out, V.C.O. is raw and pure as opposed to the other coconut oil.
With interest from overseas, the small business is still waiting for their organic certification before they can resume exporting the product overseas.
In the meantime, Alo said the talks with Japan will be a great chance for them to promote their product.
“We already have interest from Japan but this is bigger because it’s the government of Japan involved and their other big businesses,” he said.
“We are hoping to expand our market on that side.”
Also at the seminar is Alo’s sister, Vicky Va'ai who was promoting her own coconut jam.
Owner of Heavenly Water, Ms. Vaai said the coconut jam is an additional and new product for the company.
While the coconut jam has already secured its market in New Zealand, Ms. Va'ai saw the Japan mission as a window of opportunity to reach out to another audience.
In didn’t take long for Ms.Va'ai to set up her stall outside the seminar before she received some positive feedback from the Japanese delegation.
“Part of the feedback was that they are very conscious about the product and its size,” she said.
“They were interested in smaller jars and it gave me an idea to look at ways to improve the product.”
On the government level, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peseta Noumea Simi said the mission will prepare businesses in terms of market access.
She added that while there are many challenges faced by small businesses, the talks will discuss ways forward.