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Wild winds decimate banana plantations

July’s strong winds and wild storms struck the banana plantations in the hills of Tanumpaua particularly hard, with 30 per cent of the crops falling prey to the weather. 

The Ah Liki Farm’s manager, Leota Laumata Peleta, said climate change has made farming unpredictable, but he and the 10-strong banana farming team are persisting with the work.

“Last month the strong winds caused about 30 per cent of our banana plantation to be destroyed,” he said.

It put a stop to plans to export a container of banana this month, he added.

“We were supposed to prepare another container for export because according to our records, during that time we had quality bananas to go abroad.

“But that 30 per cent destruction, that is why we cannot go abroad, because that was a huge destruction.”

But the farm’s 50,000 banana fruiting trees will be joined soon by another 2000 which will start fruiting next month, Leota said:

“By November this year we are expecting another 5000 to be fruiting, and then we are still planting.”

He hopes his plan to export in November will come true, but the weather is too unpredictable to be sure, he said.

“We are doing well, but we depend on the weather,” Leota said.

“Last month, we didn’t expect the strong winds and heavy rains like last month.

“Climate change is one of the main factors that causes havoc. But we manage, we are trying our best.”

Samoa’s banana supply took a hit in January 2018 when Cyclone Gita struck its shores. Exports stopped until October, when the Banana Grower’s Association sent off its first container to New Zealand since the storm.

Banana planting materials came from donor aid to reboot the industry, and the association has been working together to improve plantation practices and export readiness.

In March, the exports had to be stopped because a shipment of prematurely ripe bananas was rejected by New Zealand. 

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F took the risk-averse approach and halted exports until farmers “get their house in order,” the Minister said.

“Until they get their house in order, I cannot take that risk because we almost lost the [export] pathway,” Minister Lopao’o Natanielu Mua said. 

That stop order on exports has been lifted, Leota said.

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