Samoa whiskey maker on the lookout for local partners

The Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS) is keen on going into a partnership with a local company, in order to progress to commercial production of Samoa Whiskey.

SROS Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Seuseu Tauati, told the Samoa Observer in an interview that there has been no traction since the launching of the product in October last year. 

But the product can be bought at selected retail outlets in Apia such as Le Well according to Dr. Seuseu. 

"So it hasn’t moved forward – not because SROS not has the product – but because we're trying to from outside get some understanding by asking Cabinet, what now?

"You can buy it at Le Well but because they’re like prototypes, equipment is so small so things are very expensive. You can buy a bottle now at Le Well at $170 per bottle and that’s not really a competitive rate in any way, they said its moving very slow – obvious reason it’s the cost," he said. 

Dr. Seuseu said there were interested parties, but SROS is keen to keep the commercialising of the Samoa whiskey operation local.

"We want the information to stay in Samoa, Samoa is the only country in the whole world that knows how to make taro whiskey," he added.

Dr. Seuseu could not say exactly how much the SROS was selling the bottles for to their distributors. But he indicated that it was more than $100 and clarified that his organisation cannot sell to individuals. 

"So this is a challenge for us, what we would like is to set up a factory, processing distilling factory but you need the whole business minded person. But the tricky part is we’re a beneficiary body, we’re not a business.

"In our small capacity, we’ve made some bottles available to be given to the Le Well and other companies so they are our distributors at the moment," he added.

Dr. Seuseu said currently there are no plans on the table at SROS and no negotiations with the organisation in the middle of shuffling several ideas, though the organisation can only provide options rather than make decisions. 

"The best scenario is private sector walks in and says 'I like that, let’s work together'. But 12 years now, no one really has come in and said that so the Prime Minister is asking the private sector to come in. Obviously, it might be slightly risky," he added. 

SROS doesn't intend to commercialise the product but instead wait for the private sector to show interest, Dr. Seuseu said and indicated that that is as far as they can go in terms of Samoa Whiskey.

"We are looking into commercialisation but exactly which direction is not clear cut from Cabinet, because we’ve done right up to what we’re supposed to do – come up with the products and we have successfully done that – now it’s the next stage.

"Because it’s not the first time the Minster has told us to do it ourselves. But when we open up our budget, there’s no budget for commercialisation coming in but we have to understand the Government has priorities, this is not a priority.

"I would see the next stage is that we hope that the private sector comes in and we do a partnership – we can negotiate, we can sit down and we can share some information – that would be ideal," he added.

Although Seuseu also spoke on how the Samoa Whiskey product has overshadowed their other researches and products from over the years.

"What’s happened is that, when people hear SROS, they think, oh the whiskey makers, and it makes me think, ‘are you serious, we have eight laboratories and they should be proud of this work that we do but oh no, you’re remembering just one product," he explained.

"We don’t even talk about that product a lot, it takes up such small space but the talk of it, is the biggest. It got pretty famous pretty fast and it has overshadowed all of our other great works we’re working on."

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