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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (August 27, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---Small vanilla producers on Lifou Island (Loyalty group, northeast of New Caledonia) are expecting to increase their local production of high-quality vanilla as a result of support from a Japanese-based commodity importer, RFO's Télé-Nouvelle-Calédonie reports.

The chairman of the Kobe-based Nichifutsu Company, Bernard Tsutsui, was in Lifou last week, where he met local vanilla producers and indicated interest in their product.

Nichifutsu is a French-Japanese joint venture, which specializes in the importing of food commodities used in bakery, confectionery and catering businesses.

He said big vanilla suppliers like Madagascar were facing a perceived drop in quality and therefore importers were looking for alternative producers.

He stressed the importance of sustaining high quality on Lifou's vanilla producers.

"Each year, our company imports about three tons of high quality vanilla. Our current main provider is Madagascar and, in the Pacific, we also buy from Tahiti," Tsutsui said.

Vanilla has been cultivated on Lifou since the arrival of the early missionaries, over a hundred years ago.

The yearly production is currently less than one ton, as opposed to Madagascar's 150 tons per year.

"Lifou's vanilla has to be recognized internationally. Once this is achieved, demand will be high," Tsutsui stressed.

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