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By Moana Moeka’a

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (December 19 2001 – Cook islands News)---Aitutaki MP Teina Bishop left for New Zealand this morning but there are no political motives for his lightning trip.

"I’m not going to see Joe [Williams, former Prime Minister]," says Bishop, in a tongue in cheek reference to rumors about his recent trips to Auckland.

Instead the MP and businessman will be in Auckland to check on the third container of agricultural produce sent from Aitutaki since September.

He says the island’s growers are showing the way on how to sell their produce overseas.

"What I’m doing now is what Rarotonga should be doing. Why aren’t the business people helping the growers on Rarotonga?"

He says a container of tarutarua in September returned just over NZ$ 8,000 (US$ 3,316.80) to 13 growers. The second, which included "nu" (drinking nuts) fetched about NZ$ 7,000 (US$ 2,902.20) for the same number of planters, and the third -- which had frozen arrowroot, taro, kurupapa (breadfruit), fish and "uto" on board -- is expected to make about the same as the first container.

"The biggest problem in the past has been the growers not getting their money, but that was in the past.

"However, I believe in selling directly to Cook Islanders in New Zealand and not going through the shops."

Aitutaki growers have also recently sent a shipment of mangoes to Rarotonga.

Bishop says they are starting to feel that they are contributing to the economic well being of the country -- with the help of Air New Zealand and the shipping company, Express Cook Islands Ltd.

"When you think about NZ$ 80,000 (US$ 33,168) coming back to Aitutaki per year that’s money that circulates in the economy. These growers and fishers start feeling that they belong to the economy, that they are part of the economy -- they in turn are contributors to the economy."

And just to show their commitment to the export venture, Bishop says growers plan to buy vacuum packing equipment, which will help to preserve the quality of produce sent from Aitutaki.

"That is the reason why I have been going to Auckland recently. This is the kind of politicking that I want to talk about. And I’m not going to see Joe."

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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