Are we adding value to our Samoan staples?
The Parliament Committee on reporting about S.R.O.. says that this organisation “needs the continuous support of the government”. If I recall, in a conversation I had with Mr. Faumuina (then M.N.R.E. Minister) in 2008 and his C.E.O.s (during a Xmas dinner at S.R.O.S.) they assured me that this organisation was meant to be self-sustained in a couple of years, that meant around 2009.
Well, since its foundation in 2006 S.R.O.S. has been supported by the government and not even 9 years later has been able to produce enough revenues to cover even a small percentage of its budget.
As is very well stated in its vision it is plain and simple: to add value to our local produce (the likes of taro, bread fruit, banana, mango, avocado, etc.). Apparently it did or is not happening so far). Avocado oil was put on the shelves of a local grocery and forgot to keep supplying.
Its corporate plans describe very nicely what they intend to do with such and such help for such and such purpose and at the end nothing is publicly visible. I am referring here to publications by their institution for the public (consumer) consumption, least for the similar international organisations.
How long are the people of Samoa going to wait for SROS to add real value to our local staples?
And by the same token from institution such as U.S.P. Farmers struggling to sell their reduced production under miserable conditions, certain business people waiting for this organisation so say here we found out that such and such staple is ready to make it or manufacture to the market and sell it anywhere you like.
Here is an example the taro farmers were losing money by cheapening their product and wasted the unsold balance. If S.R.O.S. could have said no problem bring all your unsold taro we will transform it in, let us say, taro flour, taro chips, etc (more on this later).
How about the mango wasted? How about the banana grass (not a tree, you know) that can be transformed into paper? And if sold (the mango), it goes for 2 Tala the size of a lemon. You compare this with an orange from N.Z. at 1.60 Tala per unit.
Where are our agricultural economists and local nutritionists, if any, to note this disparity? Is S.A.C.E.P. going to straight it out (with a big budget-well used, we doubt it). In the meantime our agriculture is in disarray, just like our tourism. Big titles, big salaries; very poor performances.
Now, I have seen advertised in the newspaper a job for a C.E.. at S.R.O.S. What S.R.O.S. needs is a seasoned. Internationally probed Ph.D. in the food sciences. Who has already initiated small industries from the tropical staples to benefit the farmers and local business men.
He or she backed up by high calibre technicians who are familiar with a know –how about adding value to our local produce. I am against to the so-called 3 year contract. In fact great initiatives and innovative technology takes more than 3 years to give results.
Most or perhaps all the current C.E.O.s on a three year contract are not evaluated for performance, least on a timely basis. And not even trained for the position. Just to see if they are worthy the big salaries and benefits. Result, some of them are even re- elected to do the same old thing all over again.
Research is an ongoing process We expect a very well invigorated S.R.O.S. self-sufficient and increasingly giving a great added value to our precious local staples We can’t expect less.
The M.N.R.E. ministry must take all the time needed for somebody to fulfil the vision of S.R.O.S. once and for all. Meanwhile the country suffers from the inefficiency of these people.
(Take for instance E.P.C.). What is even worse a selected group chose to participate in “corrupt practices” as per our Chief Auditor; and what is even worse our “lovable difficult”(you know who) man invoking the Christian principle of “love and forgiveness “ for the guilty and let it go at that, or wouldn’t he?
Time and history will tell us. Besides all “Samoans have brains too”. We all demand justice to be served. Otherwise this country will be found on corruption, and on unproductive workshops, not on God. So, God help us.
Just to give you an example, the following added value could be easily realized with the modern equipment at their disposal at S.R.O.S., also at U.S.P. All what we need is the passion to tackle the vision and mission and everybody will be happy, especially the farmers and the economy in general. Thinking of exporting? Why not.
From the coconut plant we can derive: Beverage, dye stuff, medicines, wood for furniture, paper pulp, shell for handicraft, charcoal, coir (rope, netting, coarse cloth)thatch and puso (wrap for white rice),midrib brooms, hats, mats.
Trays, fans, midrib decors, lamp shade, bag utility room materials, coconut spa then, helmets, caps, straps, handbags. Coconut juice (fermented to alcohol), gin, vinegar, coconut toddy. Coconut meal; coconut flour, desiccated coconut, cocomilk, latik, copra, animal feed, ingredient for salads and sweet delicacies, coconut oil (cooking, cosmetic, soap, margarine , creams), coconut husk chips, crashed cocohusk, putty soils, coconut water. You see plenty of derivatives from our coconut plant.
From the banana grass (banana is not a tree) the following derivatives can be obtained: Insecticide, antioxidant, colour absorber. For the preparation of wine, alcohol, biogas,cattle feed. Parts that can be used: peel, leaves, pseudostem, sheath (for ropes),pith (for colour absorber).flour (from dried pulp), confectionary, infant food, clarified banana juice, snack (dehydrated ripe banana), powder for ice cream, bakery products, packaging material for flowers, figs, powder. Banana pulp (flakes).
Banana leaves used as a foil in the West –steaming, grilling, baking. As aromatic food wrapper –leaves can be freeze them. Banana stem-cut weight, diuretic. Banana flower-constipation, bronchitis, ulcers, yellow banana chips-flavours with lemon, chilly, pepper.
Banana fibre cloth, banana root juice. Also banana flour, alcohol, catsup, clothing, puree, juice, shakes, fibre (bags, hats, belts, paper, shoes, slippers, picture frame, place mats, greeting cards, fashion accessories, home decor.
Banana powder, binder for glue manufacturing, pellet binder, dried banana powder, fruit powder. Peel and pulp for antifungal and antibiotics for tomato plants. Banana flour by drying and grinding unripe banana. Banana fibre for rotational moulded plastics used to make oil tanks, water tanks, plastic dolls. Tissue thin teabag
From the breadfruit plant. Here are what we can get from breadfruit: Breadfruit chips, breadfruit tostones-freeze them too, spicy breadfruit (talagani), breadfruit with coconut and palm sugar sauce, roast breadfruit, freshly pickle breadfruit, boiled breadfruit in coconut milk, candied breadfruit, breadfruit tuna patties, Ulu “Artichoke” Frittata, marinated Ulu, sweet ulu lumpia. Other uses: breadfruit leaves for cattle, breadfruit latex, wood, fibre, medicinal uses. Etc.
From our pineapple: Canned pineapple(the waste for animal feed), aseptic pineapple juice concentrate, natural p. pulp, pineapple juice (not from concentrate), preserved and concentrate, fresh pineapple, frozen pineapple juice concentrate, sulphated pineapple pulp puree, ready to serve pineapple juice drink.
Also marmalades, jams, candies, chutney, nata de pina, syrup. From leaves cure for venereal diseases, raw material for wall paper, fibre extracted from the leaves for fabric woven, unripe pineapple’s enzyme for weight loss, pineapple squash (a concentrate for a fruit drink.)
From our beloved taro we can get: Taro flour (for pancakes or bread, macaroni, crackers),taro cheese biscuits, taro fish cakes, taro pasta recipes, biscuit bowl, taro cakes, deep fried taro chips, taro flakes, frozen taro, dried taro chips, frozen taro cakes.
Ready to eat taro chunks and patties, taro starch, taro mucilage, taro peels (animal feed), canned taro (substitute for potatoes, breakfast food, taro bread pudding, poi, taro rolls, hospital diets, etc.
From mango we can use the leaves, seeds, flower, seed fat, bark, juice,peel, kernel, frozen mango strips, mango powder, dehydrated food mango, mango paste, mango fruit bars, mango puree, mango concentrate, candied and glazed mango , animal feed. And more.
The above is only a small sample of the value added that can be given to our local produce. And it does not take a rocket scientist to do that, just a well equipped pilot processing lab, staffed with passionate technicians who really want to add value to our under used local produce.
Is the newly created Ministry of S.O.E. aware of this, and the B.O.D. of SROS? Consumers need answers to the above.
By S.R.O.S. fulfilling its mission we can create jobs for the unemployed, develop small industries, improve our health, expand our local diet, hrlp the farmers, combat poverty, and cut the importation of junk processed food from abroad.
*Orlando Huaman is an agronomist and food technologist.