Nonu exporter concerned, calls for minimum standards

Exporter, Garry Vui, of Nonu Samoa wants to see the country implement a compulsory minimum standard for all nonu exporters.

 This is to protect the quality of products from Samoa reaching overseas markets.

“My biggest concern is to protect our industry; we protect the fact that we have a very good product,” said Mr. Vui.

“Our company, has been doing this 22 years, and another has been doing it for 21 years, and we work very, very hard keeping up the quality.”

Nonu juice is a high-end boutique product in Asian and American markets, and sells for upwards of US$60 per litre. Around the world, there is no shortage of nonu exporters, meaning Samoa must maintain the quality it delivers or suffer the risk of being cut from the supply chain.

Samoa has seen this kind of thing before with a different product. 

Back in 2011, the booming Samoan ava exporting was halted, due to an ava-induced sickness caused by poor product.

Chair of the international Kava Executive Council and President of the Pacific Kava Association, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, campaigned to fix that, by introducing product standards to avoid such a problem.

“What had happened was that all of a sudden, greedy people started exporting kava that was not supposed to be exported and as a result we had all sorts of issues and people got sick,” Tagaloa said.

Before then, the ava industry was “a phenomenon,” Tagaloa remembers, “one of the few agricultural success stories I have ever seen in my life,” he said.

Lately, the Samoan nonu industry has seen a similar boom. In the tragic wake of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupting last December, the Hawaiin nonu plantations were damaged, leaving a gap in the market that Samoa was able to fill, meeting Chinese, Japanese and South Korean needs.

But that increase has nonu juice exporter, Mr. Vui worried that with no official, national standards, there is no guarantee all the products across the Samoan exporters are quality enough, and will keep importers choosing Samoa over other exporters.

There are several international standards Samoa could introduce, like the Codex Alimentarius, which is a collection of internationally adopted food standards presented in a uniform manner, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“Because there are no official standards, a company can do whatever it wants,” Mr. Vui said.

“But when it starts affecting the industry as a whole I think that’s wrong. We all have standards I think we should be working to, and pretty much all the processors are.”

While today’s group of exporters is working within internationally recognized standards according to the export markets they work with, this is not legally required by Samoa.

The nonu industry is a lucrative one. Nonu Samoa alone will export 160,000 liters abroad in March, paying thousands of tala to collect barrels of nonu from across the country.

There are barely any dedicated nonu farms. People collect them from their gardens, from the side of the road, and can make up to T$1000 for a day’s work, Mr Vui said. But that could all disappear if bad juice from unripe or overripe fruit makes its way to South Korea or any other nonu market.

““To me, it’s hugely important that we don’t allow our industry to go the same way the kava went.

“We just want to protect what’s here, and protect the self-sustainability of people in Samoa, and be able to export a very good quality product, which we are.”

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