Taro Farmers: Samoa Government Lazy About Finding Markets

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Domestic oversupply cuts prices for staple crop

By Alan Ah Mu

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Feb. 20, 2014) – Farmers have good reason to call Government of being lazy over a failure to find overseas markets for taro.

"Their patience has run thin," said Shadow Finance Minister Afualo Wood Salele.

Discouraged farmers are poised to give up, said Afualo.

Prices have dropped from $20 a bundle of taro to $5 since the start of the year as a surge in supply hits.

Over the years shortages has seen Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and Cabinet members accuse farmers of laziness. Now farmers have responded to Government’s call for more taro to find little has been done to secure overseas outlets.

It is justifiable for farmers to now turn around and call Government lazy for that, Afualo said. He certainly does.

"It is their responsibility to look for markets," he said.

Government should consider establishing a marketing authority to push exports, he said.

It is something that should have been done the same time they were urging for more supply, the Shadow Finance Minister said.

Fellow Tautua Samoa Party colleague, Papali’i Taeu Masepa’u said his taro rot in the field for lack of an outlet.

Praised in Parliament last month for the work that has produced plentiful taro, Minister of Agriculture Le Mamea Ropati has on several occasions said they have not been idle.

Of the plummet in taro price Le Mamea asked farmers to be patient and regard the situation as their service to the country, he said in Parliament last month.

Agriculture has worked years to standardize size to what research say customers overseas want.

An Australian company is scheduled to return this month to discuss more their interest in chips made from taro.

Worried about the leaf blight Australia will only accept frozen taro.

The Ministry of Agriculture was looking into the prospect of facilities to produce those, Le Mamea said.

"It’s not easy," he said of efforts on the export front.

"Let us rely still on God for help to speed up things."

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