A stall of drinking coconuts at one of the markets in Apia town
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 07 NOVEMBER 2017: The Samoan government is looking at banning the export of drinking coconuts for fear of a shortage of matured coconuts that forms a major part of the Samoan diet. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) has been instructed to formulate legislation to this end.
He made the point publicly when he opened the meeting of the Darwin Coconut Initiative Steering Committee now in progress in Apia.
The Government move follows a number of business requests and proposals to Government to endorse and allow the exportation of young drinking coconuts – niu and to bottle and can the niu juice for the international market.
“If we allow this, we will not have any more matured coconuts as people would be selling them off as niu and the only way to stop this is by law,” said Tuilaepa.
He also said Government has noted the reduction of matured coconuts – popo as more young coconuts attract a better price at market and by the roadside stalls.
“The price of one small niu was $1 and it keeps increasing to $2.50 and even $3.00, and should Government allow the exportation, people would jump at the chance so it is only common sense for Government to put a stop to this,” said Tuilaepa.
He has also called on MAF to push the coconut growing bonus scheme and compensate farmers on an annual basis to ensure that the country maintains a healthy supply of coconuts.
He told Talamua in his weekly radio programme that the results of a Commonwealth funded research found the many health benefits of coconut oil which is also high in the Samoan diet. The study was prompted by efforts in the United States market to protect the soya bean oils and the campaign against coconut oil saying it was high in cholesterol.
The campaign resulted in the drop in the price of coconut oil products on the international market. However, the recent growth in coconut oil products such as virgin oil selling in high end niche markets such as the Body Shop and the revival of coconut oil and its health benefits, has impacted on the supply of coconuts in Samoa.
Tuilaepa said, allowing the export of young drinking coconuts on a commercial basis, will impact greatly on the future supply of matured nuts and the Samoan diet and health.
MAF Chief Executive Officer, Tilafono David Hunter said the Ministry is working on research for the legislation.
The Ministry is also pushing the coconut replanting bonus scheme to replace old coconut trees to ensure a firm supply in the future.