$2.5million stimulus fund to establish Commercial Arm
A $2.5 million fund from Government's COVID19 stimulus package earmarked for food security will be used to acquire equipment to upscale production of made in Samoa goods to substitute imports.
This was confirmed by by the Acting Chief Executive Officer of Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S.), Tuimaseve Kuinimeri Finau, who said the fund will be used to establish the Commercial Arm of S.R.O.S.
The organisation was allocated $2.5 million in the second Supplementary Budget 2019/2020 in response to the impact of coronavirus globally. A total of $3.5 million was set aside for the Agriculture sector with the bulk of it going towards S.R.O.S.
The remaining $1 million for agriculture was earmarked to purchase Personal Protection Equipment (P.P.E) with $20,338, $5,900 for awareness, $124,000 for livestock and $821,000 for Crops.
“This will focus mainly on the products from its research for which no private sector has expressed interest in uptaking but creates local opportunities for the farming communities through the selling of their produce and to ensure food security,” explained Tuimaseve.
According to the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, in announcing the assistance, the money is to commercialise local value added agriculture processes like the gluten free breadfruit flour, coconut oil, avocado margarine et al.
The Acting C.E.O. said S.R.O.S. at the moment only has research scale equipment for product development research.
“The funds allocated will be used to set-up operations and acquire the necessary equipment to upscale production.”
Asked if the locally processed products will be a lot cheaper than the imported goods, Tuimaseve said the ultimate goal is to assist Samoa in becoming more self-reliant for its own food supply.
That includes value added products, she said.
“We cannot guarantee prices will be lower because production costs depends heavily on farmer prices for raw materials, utilities like electricity etc.” she added.
“But it is a goal every local processor wants to achieve to attract more buyers and in turn help sustain local businesses.
“The COVID-19 situation is likely to have long term effects on trade so we need to start producing our food wherever we can and that’s what SROS is assisting with.”
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai, suggested that the funding was poorly allocated and distributed for the agriculture sector.
Olo argued that Government has already spent thousands on the researches from S.R.O.S. and no company wanted to take it up because of the production costs.
He pointed out that the breadfruit season is lowest in this time and asks about the logic of the funding.
“A better way of spending that money is buying vegetable seedlings and distribute it to families so they can plant it on their backyard and feed their own families,” said Olo.
“In less than a month families can start harvesting those vegetables and can also sell them which they are able to stimulate the money in the economy…”
The M.P. said with farmers facing a lot of restrictions under the state of emergency orders the least to assist them is giving vouchers to buy machetes and other equipment to maintain their plantation.
He added that the stimulus package assistance for the sector should have been given directly to farmers who need the support.