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Experts say locally-grown rice could bolster development

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, April 3, 2012) – Samoa could be the next rice producer in the Pacific if the Government sets its goals to invest in large-scale production of rice.

This was the suggestions given by Chinese expert on agricultural development Mr. Hwang, leading the Chinese team of experts at the Nu'u co-funded project on organic farming.

Rice, which Samoa imports in tons every year, is becoming a stable diet especially amongst the young Samoan population.

The crop has been grown for sometime and is growing well at Nu'u and Hwang and his team hopes to share the knowledge of how to grow rice with the interested community groups.

Hwang says it is easy to grow rice and the farmers need to "water it well." He said Samoa's soil is good for any crops and with rice, it needs hard working people to work on a rice patch to monitor it's daily progress especially watering it a lot.

Hwang told Talamua that rice is an easy crop to grow depending on the season and how it is monitored. It grows wild in Asian countries like China, Philippines, Indonesia and Japan. But Samoa, being very hot and humid, requires extra work.

One thing Hwang knew is that soil at Nu'u is very fertile, and so he and his team went about with their preparations to test out how rice seeds react to the soil and climate here. It is been four months since the first seeds had been sprinkled and the end result is a healthy patch of rice growing at a very 'fast pace'.

Hwang said that the soil is good and we use chicken waste as fertilizers.

"No pesticides or chemical is allowed on farm -only animal waste," said Hwang.

He is now working on the second phase of rice development.

The Minister of Agriculture, Le Mamea Ropati hailed the success of the Chinese team and their developments, and he hopes to see further evidence that rice can withstand the tropical heat. He said it could be a long shot but "anything is possible."

Samoa and Vanuatu are two countries besides Fiji that rice has been tested on. Reports from Vanuatu are also positive.

With Samoa's high importation levels of rice, it could be another stepping stone for Samoa's agricultural development if the successful trials can take production to the next level.

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