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KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, Nov. 14) – Babeldaob noni farmers in Palau report that they have been misled into believing in an uninformed business venture.

[PIR editor’s note: Babeldaob is the largest island in Palau.]

Many have invested time, money, and a great deal of effort into small-scale noni plantations – a minimum of five hundred noni plants.

About two years ago, these farmers were encouraged to plant as many noni trees as possible in order to supply a supposedly huge market demand of noni products.

"In fact," the farmers say, "some of our current political leaders have said that we probably would not be able to fulfill the demands; that we would fall short at the end of each month."

Warts and all, the noni farmers are now wondering about their investments.

At the very beginning, they cleared properties, attended trainings, bought noni seedlings and fertilizers, and acquired domestic help to ensure the success of their small farms. Soon after, they began to sell, at 50 cents per pound, noni fruits from "wild" noni trees on their properties, and months later, fruits of their farm grown noni trees.

Then, according to a noni farmer, in November 2006, representatives from NONI Palau Farm, Inc, informed the farmers that due to "operating costs of the company" the price of noni per pound had to be lowered to 35 cents until further notice.

Last summer, the farmers say, the NONI Palau Farm, Inc. opted to buy noni fruits collected in company-issued containers only. The containers cost US$15 dollars each. The farmers bought their containers.

"More than half of noni fruits from my farm go to the birds," said a noni farmer.

He had planted more than a thousand noni trees – all of which are bearing fruit.

"I can’t sell all the fruits," he says, " I bought four containers, and that is all the company can afford to buy from me."

The farmers are baffled by the recent developments of their investments.

Babeldaob noni farmers – those who purchased noni containers from NONI Palau Farm, Inc. only – are now limited to sell their noni fruits once every two weeks.

According to information obtained from the NONI Palau Farm, Inc. office in Koror, all noni containers are registered in the name of each individual farmer.

The company logs every purchase of noni fruits it buys; and it limits each farmer to one transaction every two weeks. Therefore, despite the size of his/her noni farm, if a noni farmer bought two containers, he/she can sell only two containers of noni fruits every two weeks.

According to a representative of (NONI Palau Farm, Inc) Palau Organic Farms, the sale of noni products in Japan has dwindled and that the raw noni juice exported to Japan from Palau is now being stockpiled in warehouses.

Thus, representatives of the company were told to begin a controlled purchase of noni fruits from local noni growers.

The controlled purchase policy included a price decrease and a limit to how much is to be bought. Moreover, the policy will remain in effect indefinitely.

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