Parliament Speaker, Leaupepe Toleafoa Apulu Faafisi during yesterdays parliament budget debate.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – 16 JUNE 2020: Parliament Speaker Leaupepe Toleafoa Apulu Fa’afisi made the unusual move during the Budget debate yesterday morning when he called to ban the locally made Olioli Wine.
Toleafoa said his concern was that while Samoans are COVID-19 free, they may die from the locally made wine.
“It is best to ban it, and it’s best to be safe than looking for a cure,” he said.
Toleafoa made the statement after Gagaifomauga No.3. Member of Parliament La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao highlighted the impact of the locally made wine on locals who “blackout” and “could not remember” anything the following day.
The wine is made by the Vaitele based Chinese company Skyline. It has drawn negative public feedback on the effect of the drink that is cheap, sweetened and easily available in various colours in various supermarkets targeting young people.
Laauli also handed over to the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt company receipts worth more than $15,000 tala for the Ministry to investigate.Skyline company has been investigated by the Ministry of Revenue not only for the Olioli wine but the receipts it had been giving out as deemed fake to avoid taxes.
Laauli reminded Parliament today that he raised the same issue two years ago when the same company was producing a drink called Boomvodka with similar effects that allegedly spurred serious and violent incidents. Similar incidents are being reported in association with Olioli wine.
“It’s a dangerous drink which young people and school children are exposed to because of its cheaper price and sweet taste and it is mixed with non-alcoholic beverages in the supermarkets,” said La’auli.
MPs concerned over fermentation process
MP for Siumu, Faalogo Iosefa Sopi told Parliament that after visiting the factory, he said he did not trust the process with which the wine is processed.
“Ingredients for overseas wines are berries or grapes that take 2 to 3 months to be fermented, but for Olioli wine, it takes 2 to 3 nights which to me is just not right,” he said.
The Ministry of Revenue clarified that Olioli Wine is made from rice and flavoured with various juices such as banana and pineapples.
Faalogo’s also pointed out that he is aware that there are two colours for wine and its white or red, yet this wine produced in Samoa has different colours and said this has to stop.
Safata West MP, Leaana Ronnie Posini also shared the same concerns.
Liquor Board to decide the wines fate
Both Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele and the Minister of Revenue and the Liquor Board, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt confirmed that the Liquor Board will decide on the fate of the Olioli Wine soon.
Tuilaepa said he was surprised when Olioli Wine made headlines in the local news but said there was nothing wrong with the wine except its sweet taste.
He said he instructed the Ministry of Revenue yesterday to look into the issue especially its impact on those who consume it.
“If it’s negative effect on people is confirmed then close it and if the law allows, deport the Chinese businessman who produces the wine,” he told Parliament.
“My concern is that the public may have the wrong idea that Government supports these kinds of businesses. But no, such issues are dealt with by the officials and Ministry that approve such businesses to operate,” said Tuilaepa.
Tialavea confirmed that the highest alcohol content for wine in Samoa is 15% and all relies on the findings of the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa.
He confirmed that the company had already been fined from other improprieties and its wine operation has been closed for further investigation.
Laauli also pointed out that Skyline has also received complaints from local nonu producers for non-compliance and picking green fruits and he is worried that something may damage Samoa’s reputation like what happened to kava in the overseas market.
Last October, the company launched the foundation ceremony for an Agricultural Industrial Park at Tanumalala said to produce beverages for export and a nonu farm supported by the Government. The project was launched during a high level trade and investment delegation from China that awarded nonu export contracts with the bulk of the orders to Skyline and some to three other local nonu companies.