Savai’i farmers receive new taro varieties to boost exports

Some of the Savai’i taro on display during last months Agriculture Show 

APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 11 January 2017: The rainy season, closing 2016 and entering 2017 have been perfect ground for the Savai’i Farmers Association – the Sosaiete Aufaifa’atoaga Savai’i – SAS for their 15,000 tiapula (taro shoots) of the two recommended taro export varieties.

The varieties, Fusi and Salani are named after the villages they were selected from in the on-going taro breeding programme by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The tiapula shoots were distributed last November to 50 farmers in Savaii, who are registered members of SAS.

The 15,000 shoots is the first installment of 50,000 so the farmers have access to improved taro planting material as an essential first step in the market value chain.

The first taro harvests are expected in mid-2017, and earmarked for the export market. The first generation planting tops should provide for the long-term sustainability of the scheme through further distribution to other farmers.

SAS Secretary Tauloa said they had forward a request to the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) for assistance in getting the two new recommended taro export varieties to Savai’i.

“We made a request to Asuao as national coordinator of PHAMA programme for assistance to Savaii farmers in getting the two new taro varieties. This has now come about and we signed an agreement with MAF to receive 50,000 tiapula with the first 15,000 delivered to Savaii in the beginning of November. The remaining 35,000 will be delivered in January 2017. The 50 farmers who have received the improved taro varieties will themselves re-distribute taro suckers as they become ready, so we’re looking at about a 100,000 tiapula available of the two improved varieties in Savaii by this time next year.”

SAS is aiming to increase the volume of taro exports from Savaii.

“We want to especially thank the Minister Agriculture La’aulilemalietoa Leuatea, for helping with the agricultural development of Savai’i through the delivery of tiapula to Savai’i. We are thankful also of the two exporters who travel to Savai’i and buy taro directly from the farmers and pay them cash at farm gate. Before farmers had to wait until their taro is sold in New Zealand before they get paid, now they are paid cash on the spot. And we constantly remind the farmers to follow the recommended production and harvest guidelines to ensure our taro produce continue to meet the market requirements for export taro.”

MAF has four recommended taro export varieties – Samoa1, Samoa2, Fusi and Salani and has an active programme to propagate tiapula at Nu’u Crops Division.

PHAMA National Coordinator, Asuao Kirifi was instrumental in securing the two new export varieties from MAF and working closely with SAS.

“The aim to gain equal access and opportunities to the new varieties by taro farmers in Savai’i was considered an essential component and a mandate of PHAMA in gaining and maintaining market access.”

A workshop preceded the distribution of the new taro varieties to Savai’i farmers and was aimed at clarifying the roles of all stakeholders. MAF officials and exporters presented on the taro export status, development of varieties, and market challenges.

The new Strategy for the Development of Samoa (SDS) 2016/2017 – 2019-2020 launched in December 2016, recognize increased agriculture and fisheries productivity in Key Outcome 2, increased food, nutrition and income security with enhanced agribusiness partnerships and promotion of commercial value chains to increase and sustain agriculture and fisheries productivity.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) recognizes Improved Commercial Development as one of three long term goals.

The Australia and New Zealand governments are funding the regional programme, Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) with the aim to develop agribusiness partnerships for improved agriculture value chain to access and maintain overseas markets.

A healthy taro export pathway contributes to achieving the SDS as well as MAF long term goal by improving the performance of the agriculture sector. In recent years the Samoa taro export industry has picked up again following a lengthy breeding programme, spanning some 20 years, to identify new taro varieties resistant to the deadly fungal disease, taro leaf blight (TLB).

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