Tilafono David on the Hunt

12 October 2017, 12:00AM

The writing was on the wall in 2012 that Samoa will host the Pacific and Global Summit now taking place at the T.A.T.T.E. Conference room this week.

And in the centre of it all was, Tilafono David Hunter, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 

At the time Tilafono was wearing a different hat as Chief Executive for the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S.).

It was at a time where S.R.O.S. had just successfully developed the gluten free breadfruit flour and on the hunt for investors and sustainable export markets.

The target was the lucrative U.S. markets using American Samoa as a gateway to the United States.

And following the 2 Samoa Ulu Summit that year,  a pact was inked for the 2 Samoas to collaborate in setting a pathway for Samoa’s breadfruit as an added value by product for exports.

In 2016, as C.E.O. for Agriculture and Fisheries Tilafono with his former Minister Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi attended the Ulu Summit in Hawaii. And as predicted, Samoa’s bid to bring the Pacific and Global Breadfruit Summit to Apia was endorse unanimously.

Now that experts from the Pacific and around the world are congregating in Apia, Tilafono is optimistic that the three day meeting will produce positive results.

He is also mindful that the summit is twofold.

One, with over a hundred delegates attending the 2017 Pacific & Global Breadfruit Summit on the theme of “Home of the Ma’afala it translates to fresh money injected into the economy as tourism revenues.”

And secondly, if Samoa’s breadfruit gluten free flour does get off the ground and secure lucrative market, that spells money for the ulu growers, as well as our Gross Domestic Product and Foreign Reserves supported by research which found that the world market for gluten free flour products is in the multi-billion dollar neighborhood.

Tilafono is also mindful that for Samoa to realise the full potential of commercialising gluten free breadfruit flour, its needs support from its neighbours.

Samoa’s biggest obstacle is supplies as we don’t have the volume to sustain demand from our export outlets.

But with the Pacific and Global Summit in Apia, the Chief Executive is optimistic that a regional approach will be considered and adopted.  

Tilafono was previously with the University of the South Pacific (U.S.P.) Alafua campus as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Agriculture and Food Technology. And he served as the Acting Head of School from Jan 2006 – Dec 2009.  

He has a comprehensive background and wealth of experience in agriculture and related research and allied subject areas, holding an MSc (Distinction in Crop Science from Wageningen Agricultural University  in Netherlands) and MAgr in Soil Science from U.S.P.  

Meanwhile, this week’s meeting is attended by Scientists, business developers, investors, traditional community leaders, food technology experts, farmers and project developers. Their goal is to set a pathway for ulu to be a major player in the economies of the Pacific Island and a leading component in the islands food security.

The first symposium on breadfruit research and development was held in 2007 in Nadi, Fiji, and the meeting focused on issues such as conservation, research development and made recommendations for future projects and priorities.

In 2012, Samoa and American Samoa held their own summit that highlighted the need to join efforts to improve the use of the under-utilized breadfruit tree and focused on matters such as primary production, post-harvest and technology.

There was also talk on value added processing to produce gluten free flour and other food products with the desired outcome of establishing a breadfruit flour industry for both Samoas to tap into the U.S. market for gluten free products and other countries like Japan.

Three more international breadfruit focused meetings followed, and in 2015, the International Breadfruit Conference and Commercializing Breadfruit Food & Security meeting was held in Trinidad and Tobago.

The 2016 summit was held in Hawai’i where Samoa was chosen to host the current summit.

The summit will be on for three days and among the experts from around the world presenting papers are Samoans such as Afamasaga Toleafoa, President of the Samoa Farmers Association; Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, President of the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters (S.A.M.E.); Papali’i Grant Percival of the Natural Foods International, Asiata Dr. Satupaitea Viali, and Dr. Walter Vermullen.

12 October 2017, 12:00AM

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