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Local ag dept hopes to revive cocoa for export

fili@samoanews.com

Cocoa trees were once in abundance in American Samoa especially in Tualauta county, where a large section is still called KoKoland, but the vast majority of these cocoa trees have long disappeared as land was used to build homes and other structures to accommodate an increasing population.

Now the Department of Agriculture is reviving this product, hoping to make it an export for American Samoa, with the U.S. market targeted, as buyers are already looking at the territory as a cocoa source, according to Director of Agriculture Lealao Soloata Melila Purcell. 

Cocoa development for export was revealed Monday by Lealao during a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce executive board and the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Dino Patti Djalal who was on island to look at local investment opportunities, as well as seeking ways Indonesia could help the territory. (See Samoa News edition on July 24 for more details of the meeting).

Among the issues covered in Lealao’s remarks was the fact that his department has implemented the cocoa planting development with a projection that in five years, it would eventually come to fruition for us, “as far as an export ... for the territory.”

Djalal asked if there is already a cocoa plantation in the territory and the destination of the cocoa product export. Lealao explained that “there are some families that do have, at the most, maybe ten trees”; however, Agriculture is currently growing about 1,000 cocoa tree seedlings at its location in Tafuna for distribution to farmers.

“What were are trying to do is push and extend this to our farmers,” he said and noted that taro can be planted and grown between the cocoa trees.

He revealed the main export market would be the U.S., saying that American Samoa has been given a guarantee from off-island partners that in five years time, U.S. buyers will be coming to the territory for their cocoa purchase, and this is exciting for American Samoa.

And if there is a shortage of cocoa locally, American Samoa can seek supplies from Samoa to be brought here for processing before exporting cocoa to the U.S., said Lealao.

Chamber chairman David Robinson asked the director if Agriculture has considered growing rice here, to which Lealao answered “no” but “we understand that Samoa is pursing this [rice planting] using dry land.” He said its “like a movement” — that whatever affects Samoa also affects American Samoa and rice will also come our way from Samoa, if the project there is successful.

News media in Apia reported earlier this year that the Samoa Ministry of Agriculture has begun trials of planting rice in the ground, not in paddy fields as in most Asian countries. The  rice growing trials are being conducted at the Nu’u agricultural station and Chinese agricultural experts are working to grow rice as well as onions with the help of the Chinese government’s financial assistance



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