Minister rejects tiapula allegation
The Minister of Agriculture, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, has strongly rejected a claim that taro shoots (tiapula) earmarked for Savai’i, as part of the Government’s stimulus package, have been distributed to his electoral constituency instead.
"The Itu Asau District, (Asau to Falelima) is not getting 400,000 tiapula,” the Minister said in response to questions from the Samoa Observer. “Please correct this misinformation from the Savai’i Farmers Association."
The allegation was made by the Secretary of the Savai'i Farmers Association, Lomia Tiatia Tauloa, who accused the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of failing to deliver on a promise to distribute 400,000 tiapula for their members.
Lomia expressed the organisation’s disappointment that the Ministry had delayed the distribution of the tiapula for members of the Association despite an agreement earlier this year.
"We had a meeting on [... 17] July this year at the Rosalote Guest House, and we were told that they would give out 400,000 tiapula for our members," Lomia said. "We waited for them to get back to us about the 400,000 tiapula but there was nothing.”
The Secretary then went on to accuse the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of giving out the tiapula to villagers in his constituency.
The President of the S.F.A., Va'aaoao Salu Alofipo, reiterated the claim by the Secretary but he refused to elaborate.
But the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries denied the allegation, and moved to set the record straight.
"From field visits conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Management in both Upolu and Savai’i in July, August and September 2020 and the demands from farmers for tiapula, we requested Government to include tiapula to be supplied under the second Stimulus Package," Lopao'o said.
"Tiapula for Savaii are in the process of being supplied and distributed to villages through their Pulenuu.
“I am not aware of 400,000 tiapula for the Savaii Farmers Association. But I am aware that 400,000 plus, tiapula from Savaii farmers are earmarked for supply.”
Lopao’o said the tiapula are for all farmers in Savai’i, including some members of the Savai’i Farmers Association.
"There is a selected number of farmers in Savaii, including some members of the Savaii Farmers Association, the Ministry visited who have been chosen to supply the tiapula and will bring the tiapula to our selected outstation (Salelologa/Asau/Salailua) for counting, checking and verification,” the Minister said.
"Our staff will not go to the farms but the farmers will bring the tiapula to M.A.F. A similar arrangement for Upolu is in place although this may change for convenience and ease of implementation."
Lopao'o also highlighted that not all villages and farmers need tiapula as some farmers have enough of their own.
He rebuked the claims from S.F.A., reiterating they are false.