Government unaware of taro permits issued by American Samoa


Samoan taro from Savaii island during a recent Agriculture Show

By Rula Su’a Vaai

APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 23 JANUARY 2018: The Samoan government has been ignored by the American Samoa Government in the latest moves to continue the supply of taro from Samoa to the territory despite the ban in place since last year.

The new arrangement issues permits to taro exporters in Samoa to send taro over to the territory despite the ban.

The Minister of Agriculture, Lopaoo Natanielu Mua told Talamua that Samoan taro farmers raised the issue during a meeting last week with local exporters.

“We the government is not aware of any permits issued by the American Samoa authorities to their business people for our farmers to send taro over,” the Minister explained.

“We have not received anything official from American Samoa.”

The Minister added that as far as he is aware, the latest development on the issue was the decision reached at the Samoa Talks late last year “where we were told a definite decision will be reached by March this year.”

Lopaoo said during discussions, Samoa suggested an officer from American Samoa travel over to Samoa to inspect quarantine requirements before taro is shipped over to the territory. “It is the same practice with taro export to New Zealand, USA and Australia.”

What American Samoa requested was to send an officer or officers to inspect taro plantations in Samoa.

“We do not consider that as appropriate.”

Preparing taro at the Nuu Research station for export

The ban according to the minister has zeroed in on the financial impact on the farmers.

“There is no major loss on our farmers financially due to the ban,” said Lapaoo. “But our office and our farmers have been under pressure from the demands in American Samoa, so we are trying to do what is best for everyone.”

Other farmers say it is just a waste of time in trying to negotiate this ban. They say it is better to cut it as Samoa has better options.

The Member of Parliament for Lefaga and Faleaseela Toleafoa Poutoa told Parliament today that farmers in his constituency are supplying taro to American Samoa. He also thanked the initiative that opened the market for frozen taro exports to Australia that utilises taro from his constituency.

In November last year, American Samoa indicated lifting the ban but it came with many conditions including details such as telephone and email addresses of the exporter and assurances that the taro is thoroughly cleaned and meet American Samoa’s quarantine requirements.

The Minister of Agriculture also said that Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa is currently doing research on using taro as a by-product for export.

Frozen taro to Australia has been successful and has bypassed tough quarantine regulations there.