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Exporting Samoa taro to New Zealand — a story of resilience and opportunity

taro growning
Source: Voxy Community News

Apia, SAMOA — A remarkable story of resilience and opportunity is unfolding when you meet Seuamuli Kome Robbie Lauano, a 48-year-old entrepreneur whose dedication and resourcefulness have brought the flavors of Samoan taro to the shores of New Zealand, thanks to the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) Samoa and the PACER Plus Implementation Unit.

Mr. Lauano's journey began with a simple but profound realization. He saw the untapped potential of small farmers in Samoa who lacked the opportunity to export their produce. Determined to bridge this gap, Mr. Lauano reached out to the PACER Plus Implementation Unit, which utilized its networks to support Mr Lauano.

With a vision of empowering local farmers, Mr. Lauano set out to purchase their taro, offering fair prices that sustained their families in numerous ways. By eliminating the middlemen and directly supporting the farmers, he not only ensured their financial stability but also fostered a sense of hope and optimism within the community.

Through Mr. Lauano's efforts, over 2,000 kilograms of Samoan taro made their way to New Zealand, crossing borders with zero tariffs under the PACER Plus agreement. The destination was Papakura Wholesale Meats Direct, a store in Auckland, New Zealand owned by Mr. Lauano and his business partner, Toomata Paul Stowers. The response from consumers were overwhelming, as word spread about the availability of fresh, high-quality Samoan taro.

Throngs of eager customers travelled from Otara, Manurewa, and Mangere to savour the taste of these traditional delights. The aroma of boiled taro filled the air, as families gathered around tables adorned with the bounty from Samoa. The connection to their cultural heritage was rekindled, and the demand for Samoan taro soared.

For Mr. Iopu Ma'aolo, a 35-year-old farmer from Savai'i, this newfound opportunity brought tangible improvements to his family's life. With a beaming smile, he shared how he earned WS$1,080 (US$400) from the export of his taro. Comparing the current market prices, he expressed gratitude for the upfront payment and the increased value of his produce. The additional income would help secure a brighter future for his two children, offering them improved access to education and healthcare.

Similarly, Mr. Avea Vaoga, a 52-year-old farmer also from Savai'i, rejoiced at the fruits of his labour. When he received a cash payment of WS$5,400 (US$2,000) for his taro, his joy knew no bounds. As a community leader, Mr. Vaoga understood the significance of this opportunity not only for his family but also for the entire community. With his newfound earnings, he planned to invest in his farm, providing employment to young men in the village. The prospect of agricultural prosperity excited him, as he envisioned a future where opportunities for export continued to uplift local farmers.

Beyond the financial gains, the export of Samoan taro holds deeper significance. It symbolizes a revival of cultural identity and pride, reminding Samoans living abroad of their roots. The aroma, taste, and texture of this traditional staple transport them back to cherished memories and traditions, strengthening the bonds that unite the Samoan diaspora.

The success of Mr. Lauano's venture highlights the importance of empowering local farmers and supporting agricultural growth in Pacific countries. Samoa's MAF and the PACER Plus Implementation Unit's role in supporting this journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of collaboration and opportunity.

As the sun sets over the expansive taro fields of Samoa, Mr. Lauano continues to work tirelessly, bridging the gap between farmers and distant markets. His story is a testament to the resilience and determination of Pacific communities and a beacon of hope for farmers who dare to dream of a brighter future. With each kilogram of Samoan taro exported, a legacy of empowerment, sustainability, and cultural preservation is written, one that echoes through generations to come.