Savaii Koko celebrates 20,000 pods harvest
Samoa’s largest cocoa exporter Koko Savaii is celebrating a bumper harvest of about 20,000 pods from their 300-acre plantation.
Tupai Saleimoa Vaai, a co-owner of the plantation, told Samoa Observer that they harvested approximately 20,000 pods from their plantation on Savai’i and will take about two weeks to process.
"So this is just one harvest so we’ll process that and it’ll probably take another two weeks. Cocoa has changed a lot over the past two years. This year it's slightly different, we see the bumper crops are starting to come back on,” he said.
“We usually harvest it twice a year, two bumper crops. We have one more main harvest around August. We found that the cocoa has been producing all throughout the year and this is one of our biggest harvest."
The company currently exports its product to New Zealand chocolate manufacturer Whittakers Chocolates, specifically for a product called the ‘single-origin Samoan cacao’ as well as other markets.
They have supplied cocoa to Whittakers Chocolates since 2015, according to Tupai.
"Our main market is exports, we supply Whittakers Chocolates, we supply our market in Japan, and we supply another market in Australia. We’ve been suppliers for five years now, 2015 was when we first shipped out our containers."
Tupai said every year the company ships four to five containers of cocoa out of Samoa, though there was a time when the market crashed and cocoa trees were cut, leading to the diminishing of supply.
Today the company purchases locally grown cocoa from the districts as well as Apia.
"We take in everybody’s cocoa from districts, we try and take in a bit from Apia, but most of our cocoa comes from Le Itu I Asau," Tupai added.
"We started five years ago, I'm trying to start that brand back out. There's always been cocoa going out of Samoa but very small. It was never in a container, so when we shipped our first container out, it was probably the first container of cocoa out of Samoa for at least 10 years."
The process of preparing the cocoa pods for exports – to ensure that they are at export-ready quality – is done at the plantation at Vaisala. The process consists of de-seeding, fermentation, drying of the beans and then sorting.
According to Tupai, a challenge that they are faced with is the returns because agriculture is a long-term investment.
"We try and buy at a high cost from our farmers so that their return is good so it solely depends on the price that’s given from overseas. We do all the work in terms of logistics and freight from Savai’i. It cost us the same amount of freight from Savai’i that it does to freight to New Zealand."
Going forward, Tupai said they hope to increase their supplies and for cocoa to one day become Samoa’s main export, that is on top of their dream for their product to be exported directly from Savai’i to their overseas markets.