Export plan, banana breakthrough and the role Govt. must play

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 29 October 2018, 12:00AM

This much is undeniable. This country of ours needs a solid export plan to make good use of the products being manufactured in Samoa and the produce harvested from the fertile soil we have been blessed with. 

There is great potential but we also know there is also a lot of work that needs to be done. Speaking of exports, judging from what has been said so far, the Government is committed to making it work. Which is a good start.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Lautafi Fio Purcell, delivered some very promising remarks about exports. He was speaking during the inaugural Samoa Exports Awards, when he touched on the challenges, the opportunities and what needs to happen for our exports to grow. 

“To secure a fair share of the export markets requires ongoing drive for excellence in our export efforts,” he said.

“Samoa’s geographic isolation from major export markets, strict quarantine requirements, and our vulnerability to natural disasters and external shocks continues to be some of the main challenges, that our exporters are battling with in the field. 

“In view of these challenges, therefore, ‘Samoan made products and services’ should be competent at the international front. Export businesses should consistently comply with international standards.”

The Minister has a valid point. 

This issue here though, has always been a setback for small countries, because these international standards are at best difficult and at worst discriminatory. In some cases, they are deliberately designed to make life harder for small countries like Samoa.

Which means we have to fight even harder for a slice of the pie, and that is not easy, especially when we consider the fact we don’t have the resources, finances and the material wealth the bigger players have.

The good news is that it’s not all about muscle and money. If we are innovative in our thinking, and find smart ways to market our products targeting specific markets, there will be opportunities for us there. 

The key is finding them and locking them in.

Which brings us to a big breakthrough in the agriculture sector last week with the first shipment of export-ready bananas to New Zealand. We believe congratulations are in order.

The shipment was put together by the Banana Growers Association with the effort driven by key commercial farmers in the form of Taimalie Charlie Westerlund, Ututa’aloga Charlie Ulia and Tuisuga Sofara Aveau.

 “This shipment is a trial for commercial sale, which hasn’t been done for almost fifty years,” said Tuisuga, of the Banana Farmers Association.

 “We hope only that people are behind this and praying for us that we will be successful and then a lot of Samoans will benefit.”

We hope so too. And we pray that this container goes well so the door is opened not just to the big commercial farmers but all the banana growers of Samoa. See the New Zealand banana market is huge.

 “We can never make even one percent of the market, we won’t even make a dent,” Tuisuga said.

Which means that more successful crops of banana exports can only be good for Samoa and our economy.

Getting back to Minister Lautafi, he continued: “Relatively increased earnings from exports are critical in offsetting the cost of importing goods and capital items that we need but we cannot produce in our country.  

“Therefore, Samoa’s future prosperity, employment creation and economic growth depend on the success of products and services that are produced by the private sector.  Thus exports are critical to stimulating economic growth for our country. 

“In saying that, therefore, highlights the critical importance of strengthening the export sector for the benefit of our economy, thus all businesses in Samoa are encouraged to look and take advantage of opportunities beyond our national borders’. 

“For a small business, the road to international markets can be shaky, often requiring outside assistance. Therefore, to achieve all of these requires a dynamic private sector, with collaborative support from Government and development partners at all levels.”

Well he’s correct. 

But the Government also needs to play its part.

Think about farming and agriculture for instance. With all that fertile soil in Samoa, imagine if there were millions of tala available to local farmers so they can fund different projects to utilise their land? 

We believe the Government should help private businesses set up factories, where our wildly grown breadfruits, mangoes, papayas, lemon and so forth are canned and exported. 

That way employment is created, more people have money in their pockets and the economy is stimulated. Most importantly, there is a solid base for export earnings, which we sorely need. What do you think?

Have a fantastic Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 29 October 2018, 12:00AM

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