Ministry maintains export ban on Banana Association

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.) is maintaining its position on a temporary ban imposed on the Samoa Banana Farmers Association from exporting banana to New Zealand. 

The temporary ban was imposed last month by the Minister of M.A.F., Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, after a consignment of 505 boxes of banana from the association was condemned by the N.Z. authorities. 

In an interview with Samoa Observer, M.A.F. Chief Executive Officer Tilafono David Hunter said unless the Minister says otherwise the ban on the association and its members remains in place. 

However, Tilafono assured the Ministry is going to work with the Banana Association with shipment requirements and the aim now is to look ahead and move forward. 

 “The Minister has spoken and protocol is when the Minister speaks that is our position,” said the C.E.O. 

“We have had discussion with the President of the association and we are planning out how to address (shipment) issues. 

“The aim now is don’t look back but move forward and work together.”

According to Tilafono, the temporary ban imposed by the Minister is based on the need to protect the export market so that it is not affected. 

He added he was made aware of the decision by the Minister to impose the ban and was not taken by surprise. 

Tilafono was also asked by the President of S.B.F.A., Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau, saying that the Minister did not reach out to the association before imposing the ban. 

In response, he explained that the Minister directed him to talk with the association before the ban. 

“We did meet, me and the A.C.E.O. for Crops Division (within the Ministry) met the President before the ban and had discussions,” he said. 

Tilafono added the Ministry will continue to assist the association on technical side, to follow the production manual for bananas to ensure all members complied with requirements. 

Since the ban, the banana export market has been given to one of the local companies to supply the New Zealand market. 

In a recent interview when announcing the ban, the Minister said he feared that the market – which became non-accessible to Samoan banana farmers almost 50 years ago – would again shut its doors. 

But the President of the Banana Association criticised the Minister's decision, saying it was uncalled for and discouraged banana farmers from working their plantation. 

Tuisuga maintained the issue with the consignment was not technical and was caused by some banana being over-ripe. The other issue was the box used for packing bananas.

 “What happened is the bananas were over matured,” said Tuisugaletaua. 

“There must have been one box that had a ripen banana in it and when banana ripe it releases ethylene gas, which eventually will cause other bananas to mature quicker. It could have been because the banana was picked late and not at 12 weeks period.  

“The other issue we had was that we agreed the box we used was not solid enough and could have squashed other boxes. So it wasn’t anything technical that involves quarantine, it was just those issues and we are working on addressing them.”

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