New regulations as boost for Organic farming sector

As part of its push to encourage the development of organic agriculture in Samoa, the Government will soon introduce new regulations to standardise organic produce. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the Pacific Week of Agriculture summit, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao'o Natanielu Mua, revealed the new organic regulation had already been drafted.

Himself an organic farmer with some ten years' experience, Lopao'o said the regulation would come into force before the end of this year.

Its aim is to ensure that farmers selling organic produce are compliant with proper standards including refraining from the use of pesticides. 

"The impact of organic, [is that] organic will keep our soil healthy and the Government is very supportive of that," he said.

"Organic" this is a subject that has not been given a very high priority during our Pacific Week of Agriculture, I can’t understand why, but I thought their agenda included maybe a whole day on organic.

"But we are moving to strengthen organic farming here in Samoa because of the fact that was getting some good feedback on organically produced food, [and] it’s getting a higher value."

The Minister said segregation seems to be a problem in the emerging organic farming sector as big companies move to mobilise. The sector is also bedevilled by complex policies and regulation, the Minister said. 

Standardising compliance, he said, would help Samoan farmers access new export markets which are governed by similar standards, he said. 

"Some of our farmers and local producers are slowly getting sucked into that, so we don’t want our organic [farmers] to be disqualified because of the complexity and confusion created by the type of policies so the Government is looking to make sure that we have a very narrow and straight line as far as organic is going to make sure that if this is the standard that we need to adopt that’s what it is," said Lopaoo.

"We’re looking at making sure our organic products can have access to European markets and look at their rules for accessibility into their market, US, New Zealand and Australia."

Lopao'o made it clear that the push for organic farming does not mean the Government is disregarding non-organic farmers.

"For those people that prefer organic farming [should] comply, but those people who don’t want to be organic farmers they still have that choice. We cannot rule out our non-organic farming."

He also admitted that organic farming has its challenges, including additional labour, costs and convenience.

"I’ve personally been an organic farmer for ten years, so organic farming has been in Samoa for quite a while but organic farming means you can’t use product crops anymore, but because of the shortage of farm labour, it is difficult," admitted Lopaoo.

"It is difficult, for a lot of our people, if you look at Aleisa and some of our people with big taro plantations, if you’re an organic farmer, you’ll need 100 [labourers] to clear the land and plant that many taro in two weeks in one week or in that month. But when you clear with weed killer, you can do it, probably, in two days or three days [or even] five acres in two days.

"[There are a] lot of challenges it’s not an easy task, with being an organic farmer too, I prefer to be an organic farmer because my products are sold in high value and it’s my soil, is taken care of.

"That’s why I’m looking at the long term of my family and for my children and extended family because if I ruin it now for them, I don’t know I hope they’re not going to be hungry. 

"So I have to make sure that it’s good for them when they grow up and future generations."

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