SAMOA COCONUT GROWERS CONTINUE TO EXPRESS CONCERN

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By Keni Ramese Lesa

APIA, Samoa (June 19, 2001 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---Aufaipopo Samoa’s (Samoa Coconut Growers’) relentless efforts to break the government’s contract with Elan Trading (Samoa) Limited at the Vaitele Copra Mill are continuing -- despite police reluctance to allow them to protest outside Parliament.

This ongoing feud among the government, Elan Trading and Aufaipopo Samoa pertains to low prices for copra in Samoa.

After the government awarded the contract to Elan Trading, Aufaipopo Samoa claimed the tender process was unfairly done.

It accused the government of "playing favorites" in awarding the contract to Elan Trading.

The government, through Finance Secretary Hinauri Petana, denied the accusations saying the decision to award the contract to Elan Trading was above board.

But Aufaipopo Samoa has refused to accept this as an answer and is taking the matter a step further.

Secretary Tuialamu Mosese Matamea said: "We will not rest until the government listens to what we are trying to say. We will seek assistance from the government but if they won’t listen then we are prepared to take it to the next level."

That next specific step could not be determined at press time, but Tuialamu said they have approached the Head of State, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II, for assistance.

The association did not reveal the outcome of their meeting with Malietoa.

"All we’re trying to say is that the drop in copra prices is affecting everyone. It is affecting the economy and it is contributing to poverty and poor families," Tuialamu said.

Although there has been a mixed reaction from a number of coconut growers, Tuilamu has claimed the support of all coconut growers from Savai‘i and Upolu.

"We’ve been around Savai‘i and Upolu and they’ve all expressed their support for our mission," he said.

Elan Trading general manager Wong-Tung counters that the poor prices have nothing to do with Elan Trading and more to do with world supply and demand.

He said the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia make up about 90 percent of the coconut oil trade and at the moment those countries are flooding the market.

Part of the reason is to bring foreign exchange into those countries at a time when they are all experiencing political turmoil, Mr. Wong-Tung believes.

Another factor is those countries are also flooding the market with seed oil, soya oil and palm oil, which are coconut oil’s main competitors.

"Instead of controlling the market, they are just trying to get as much foreign exchange into their countries and thereby creating a glut," he said.

Meanwhile, asked how Aufaipopo Samoa is planning to carry out the protest, Tuilamu said it would be peaceful.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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