Samoa Minister Blames ‘Lazy Farmers’ For Coconut Shortages

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Le Mamea was describing coconut stimulus package to media

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, August 16, 2013) – The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Le Mamea Ropati Mualia has blamed what he called "lazy farmers" for the shortage of coconuts in Samoa.

Le Mamea made the comment during a press conference yesterday where the Minister countered claims that the stimulus package designed to revive the coconut industry was only available to organic farmers.

Le Mamea, however, confirmed that farmers who wanted to be a part of it had to pay $100 [US$42.37] to register with the ministry.

"You have got to register yourself so that the Ministry can keep track of where you are and what type of products you have," he said.

"To register you have to pay $100 and with that $100 the Ministry can come and deliver you seedlings."

"The ministry comes out and measures your land, it has got to be an acre, two acres and then they measure your boundaries."

"Then we register them and we come over and deliver the seedlings and show the people how to do it. So all they have to do is look after them and after two years, then they are entitled for a bonus…"

Asked about the farmers who could not afford $100, the Minister responded that the Ministry would consider that too.

"Right now we are looking into that because…some of the farmers have come to us and say ‘why don’t you register us for free like we do for the agriculture show?’" he said.

"But when I came here to the Ministry, the project had just taken off. It had just started and that is how the proposal was made."

"So I have asked the Ministry, the people in the Crops (division) and they say it’s to cater for the cost of seedlings and the cost of taking them out to wherever the farmers are.

"It’s not cheap but I am seriously looking into that question to see if we can do something about it maybe drop it down or completely remove it."

Le Mamea said the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries was not to blame for the shortage of coconuts.

"That is not the only thing that is causing the shortage, the other thing is laziness of people," he said.

"You go around to some other families and you see a lot of seedlings growing around the mother tree and they are not doing anything about it."

"If you want to have a look at some of these where they have these cattle farms a lot of seedlings are growing around the coconut trees. They are not doing anything about it."

"So don’t blame our ministry please, I mean we are trying all our best, our best to see what we can do to help the farmers. Trying to develop these various projects and encourage them to go out and work."

At the end of the day, it comes down to people and their willingness to work.

"Even if I give $2,000 tala [US$847.40] to the farmer and he doesn’t want to work," he said. "Who is the fool who is going to give out money to people who don’t work? That is what I am saying, if you are working you are a friend of the Ministry, we’ll give you more aid we will give you more help."

"I am not going to give you money if you are not going to work, if you just sleep in your bed with your mosquito net (until) 10 o’clock in the morning."

"That is what I found out some of these people out in their farms, 10 o’clock in the morning and old ladies weeding and the man is lying down inside."

"There is no way if you are not working that is the bottom line, if you work we will help you, you are a friend of the Ministry of Agriculture."

However, later in the same question time the $100 registration fee did not seem so much to him.

"$100 tala? $100 tala? You spread that out to the number of times the Ministry will go out there," he said.

"Not only the workers, the Ministry workers, the cost of the fuel and their time and the seedlings and they even show them how to plant."

"I think you are getting all your things twisted…Well that was the idea in the beginning to help these people."

"Now if you work and we come up and inspect and its ok, we will give you a bonus of $1000 next year if you work another year $1500 so there is no complaint."

"The people who want to work will always find $100 tala only once, not every year, only once to register…that shows us that this is a keen person."

"Because we have given out help to some of the people all coconut seedlings today maybe 40 (and) you go there next month and they are still growing up there next to their umu.

"That’s not a good friend for us."

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