Exporters need financing support: S.A.M.E.
Fresh fish is the country’s most valuable export with nonu in second place but the market is being severely hampered by the high cost of finance for agricultural production, exporters say.
The latest data released by the Samoa Association Manufacturers and Exporters President, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, confirms the predominance of fish exports in the country’s economy.
Fresh fish were the country’s largest export by far with a total value of $50 million and nonu juice in second place at $10 million, new data shows.
“These data are for 2019 because we are still collecting data for 2020 due to the number of disruptions,” Tagaloa said.
According to the data, August recorded the highest levels of fish exports with some 7,493 tons exported.
February, by contrast, was the least active month for the industry with some 1,669 tons leaving the country.
Taro, for the year under review, came in third in the category of exported goods. A total of more than $7 million of taro in 2019, with being the month with the highest number of taro cases sent overseas.
Beer came in fourth place, while crude coconut oil followed in terms of exported goods by volume.
Tagaloa said more can be done to assist with the exporting of goods from Samoa; key to success, he argues, is for the Government to assist and help farmers.
“What we need is a competitive finance scheme,” he said.
He said that cocoa Samoa does not feature in the top five number of exporting goods because there is simply not enough cocoa in the country.
(In the past cocoa exported from the country amounted to between 5,000 to 6,000 tons; nowadays the country is lucky if it can export 400 tons of cocoa, said Tagaloa.)
A dispute between Tagaloa and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi about whether the country has adequate raw cocoa was the subject of a dispute covered in the Weekend Observer.
“We are currently proposing for the Government’s consideration to assist the farmers by initiating an incentive scheme with an interest rate of four percent to help the farmers with [obtaining] loans,” he said.
“At the moment the interest rate for small business loans is between nine to 12 per cent and that is too high for any farmer.
“We’re asking the Government to drop the interest rate and secondly make the scheme easily accessible for our farmers.
“What S.A.M.E. is seeking from the Government is to keep the scheme simple and keep the interest low.”
Tagaloa said the Government does not need to take on any financial risk; it will instead be borne by financial institutions and farmers.
“All we need is for the Government to vouch for these farmers, after they conduct their own assessments of the farms, this is the only way we can get investment in our local products for export,” he added.
“Our export numbers speak for themselves, hence needing assistance from the Government.
“Export is where the money is.”