Agriculture is at the forefront of attention this week with the celebration of the National Agriculture Week well underway.
The official opening of the Agriculture Show in Upolu today at the Malaefatu Park in Sogi will only add to the excitement. More than two hundred farmers from around the island are showcasing their produces, livestock and fisheries developments.
The agriculture week started on Monday to Friday for the island of Upolu and Savai’i on the following week.
One of the highlights that will be celebrated this week is the first shipment of breadfruit and yam (ufi) to Australia using the produces on display at the show.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao said the first shipment of frozen breadfruit (ma’afala) and yam follows a successful shipment of frozen taro in Australia.
“Yam has never been exported before (from Samoa) as well as breadfruit,” La’auli told the Samoa Observer yesterday.
“There is a huge market in Australia and that was realised when we went on a tour there where we saw frozen tapioca from Fiji and yam were sold there. The breadfruit and yam from the farmers at the show will be frozen and shipped off there.”
According to La’auli the advantage of frozen produces is it has a longer life span of six months and the quality is maintained.
He said the frozen taro trial shipment was a success and another shipment of three containers is underway to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Behind the export is businessman Su’a Tanielu Faiaoga. La’auli said the feedback from Australia is the frozen taro is better so that the quality is not lost.
“I have tasted it and it tastes the same just like any other taro but the good thing is the quality is still there for up to six months,” he said.
“Another good thing about taking frozen taro is because the planting material (tiapula) is not wasted and it can be cut off and take only the taro. If we ship fresh taro we have to take part of the planting material and that is waste because they don’t use it but it helps preserve the taro a little longer.”
He added that a kilo of taro is sold in Australia for AUD$6.
As for the breadfruit tree, La’auli said the export is timely with the breadfruit season so that the produce will not go to waste.
But there is more good news for the breadfruit tree namely ma’afala.
The Minister said Samoa will have royalties from breadfruit having ownership to it and commission for each plant that is sold overseas.
He said a Memorandum of Understanding will be presented to the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi to sign in order for Samoa to have royalties from breadfruit.
“We do not want to make the same mistake we did to the mamala tree (Homalanthus nutans) that other Pacific islands are claiming it (royalty),” said La’auli.
“We are signing a contract with the University of Hawaii to process breadfruit into flour and export it. Government is leading the way by obtaining affordable equipment such as dryers to enable farmers and processors to dry breadfruit when in season.
“We have a confirmed market in America, a gluten free market and our breadfruit is said to be the best flour in the world.”
La’auli said the breadfruit tree will also be sold to the United Nations to plant in countries facing starvation.
“It’s a good promotion for Samoa and we will get royalty of it.”
Earlier this week, a Coconut Planting day kicked start the agriculture week on Monday at Nu’u.
La’auli pointed out the main aim is to have coconut as one of our major crop.
He said the demand of coconut export is encouraging to push students to plant coconut annually.
“We wanted to use this time of the year on White Sunday to encourage students to plant coconut,” he said.
“There were three schools at the event on Monday and they were given coconut to plant. Next year’s project is to continue on with the programme in 2012 to push children to plant coconut so they would also understand how valuable coconut is.”
Another produce that Agriculture also promoted on Monday was a new variety of banana from Israel called Williams and Asdia banana.
Just like the taro blight that struck many plantations in 1990s, a fungus called the banana bunchy top virus had also threaten the banana export in the past years.
However, La’auli said the Williams variety will help the farmers get back on track to start planting and export banana overseas.
About 10,000 banana plants were ordered from Israel and will be distributed for planting.
There is also a new species of Samoans very own sheep.
The Samoan sheep was a result of a breeding of a New Zealand and Australian sheep and gave birth to it.
“It was born here in Samoa and we are sure it can survive here in the weather,” said the Minister.
“I cannot confirm how many we have at the moment but the livestock at Nu’u are working on breeding them.”
The prize-giving for the agriculture show will be held tomorrow.