Cocoa donation questioned

New Zealand’s donation to boost the cocoa industry in Samoa has come under fire from the Executive Director of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, Jordan Williams.

The donation of NZ$4.8million was announced by New Zealand Prime Minister, Leuluaialiiotumua Bill English, during his recent visit to Samoa. 

But Mr. Williams has queried the motives behind the donation, saying Leuluaialiiotumua’s government is attempting to pick winners abroad with the handout. 

 “This Government’s corporate welfare largess is now going global,” said Mr. Williams. 

“First there was the $25 million for the American rocket company, the millions to help Oracle racing, the Hollywood studios, and now even Samoan cocoa farmers are set to have New Zealand taxpayer cash raining down upon them.”

“Either New Zealand should be providing real aid to our South Pacific neighbours, or building infrastructure to assist in development. 

“Here, the Government is picking which international businesses should prosper from New Zealand taxpayer handouts.”

According to a media release, the $4.8m donation is part of a five-year programme to support Samoa’s cocoa industry.

 “Samoa has ideal conditions to produce larger amounts of high value, chocolate-grade cocoa,” Leuluaialiiotumua said.

Samoa exported about 5000 tonnes of cocoa annually during the 1960s, but exports have since declined to only 40 to 50 tonnes a year.

 “Now there is a cocoa renaissance taking place in Samoa and New Zealand is very pleased to be able to contribute to it.”

The New Zealand investment is intended to help Samoa achieve its goal of developing a thriving, sustainable, resilient and inclusive agricultural sector, with a particular focus on local crops where smallholders have a comparative edge.

 “The funding will provide practical help for farmers by establishing grafting nurseries and providing training on grafting and growing cocoa plants,” the New Zealand Prime Minister said.

 “Furthermore, it will provide on-farm training in plantation management, harvesting and processing. New processing facilities on Upolu and Savaii will be developed, and the industry will be helped to establish a national cocoa association and develop an industry strategy.”

The five-year programme will complement various other small-scale initiatives currently under way within the Samoan cocoa industry. 

New Zealand is already co-funding a targeted initiative in Samoa with J.H. Whittakers and Sons, to improve production and processing.

The programme has enabled Samoa’s largest cocoa exporter, Va’ai Plantations to lift the quality and quantity of cocoa it supplies. 

Va’ai Plantation now supplies 30 tonnes of cocoa a year for Whittaker’s ‘Single Origin Samoan Cacao’ block and intends to double exports by the end of 2018.

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