Agriculture chief sets record straight on banana ban

The ban on members of the Banana Farmers Association from exporting their bananas to New Zealand has not been lifted. 

It remains while the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.) is working with members of the Association to help them comply with export requirements.  

This was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of M.A.F, Tilafono David Hunter, during an interview with the Samoa Observe.

He clarified that contrary to media reports, the ban remains in place until further notice. 

“What I said was misunderstood," he said referring to reports from other media that the ban has been lifted.

 "What I had said is the opportunity is there for the Banana Association (to export) and if they comply the ban will eventually be lifted.

“The ban was imposed by the Minister and Ministry to ensure that our export market is safeguarded and its future for our suppliers is not compromised. 

“We are currently working with the Association to ensure they comply with requirements from New Zealand with the use of the procedure manual. 

“It is crucial that the export market is maintained and we follow the manual so that our farmers can consistently supply the market without the risk of losing it again.” 

Tilafono urged members of the Association to work with the Ah Liki Company that is currently supplying the market since the ban was imposed on the group. 

In meantime, he encourages the farmers to use the local market.

Contacted for a comment, the Banana Farmers Association (B.F.A.) Secretary, Leapai Afa Ah Sam, said they support the decision by the Minister and the Ministry. 

“The decision was appropriate considering the state of the farmers bananas plantations,” said Leapai. 

“The Ministry is offering assistance to our members to improve our plantations and work on the requirements so that we do not encounter any more problems if the ban is lifted. 

“While we continue to work on those small but important issues we are selling bananas to hoteliers and the flea market.”

He added the ban is also good in that it encourages farmers to be attentive to their plantations and maintain them, so that the requirements of the overseas markets are met. 

In February this year a container carrying 505 boxes of bananas was condemned by the New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries. 

The consignment, which was prepared by the Banana Farmers Association, was destroyed because some of the bananas had ripened. The incident almost led to a ban on Samoan banana exports, which has just resumed after close to 50 years. 

In fear of losing the market that was recently resurrected, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Lopao’o Natanielu Mua imposed the ban. 

Lopao’o made it clear that unless the Association get their in-house rules together, the ban remains. 

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