Territory eyes U.S. market for taro export

Plans for November Breadfruit Festival on the calendar

American Samoa is now looking at the U.S. market for export of locally grown taro, while a breadfruit festival is set for November just in time for this year’s Thanksgiving holiday, says Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who praised local farmers for their contribution to the territory’s economy, calling farmers the government’s “greatest and best partner”.

At last week’s Farm Fair, the governor noted the increase in taro produce in the territory and announced that a territorial delegation will head to Hawai’i sometime in August to talk to stores about exporting taro.

He says the delegation, which will include officials of the local Department of Agriculture will hold discussions with stores wanting taro from American Samoa. He said it’s time American Samoa takes the next step of selling to off-island markets our locally grown produce.

Togiola noted that this export from American Samoa will also help the weekly cargo flight on Friday that returns back to Honolulu without enough cargo. He said air freight is currently available for local exports.

In a brief news release from the governor’s office about the fair posted on the ASG website, it states that among the many crops at the fair, was a phenomenal number of different breeds of taro displayed by various farmers.

The Agriculture Department reported that the taro crop has come a long way since the fungal blight that decimated the plant in 1994, which affected the territory’s revenues significantly.

“Thanks to the breeding efforts of the Department of Agriculture, [ASCC] Land Grant, and assistance from the Independent State of Samoa; new and parasite-resistant taro crops have resulted — restoring one of American Samoa’s much needed resources,” it says.

Also during his remarks at the farm fair, the governor revealed that Agriculture has obtained 74 new species of breadfruit trees to be grown here and some of the trees have already been distributed to local residents.

Togiola says breadfruit is one of the local trees that grow in abundance, noting that breadfruit trees currently used by our generation were planted years ago by our forefathers, and have continued to grow and multiply.

He said breadfruit is an excellent source of food, which can feed many family members, and breadfruit trees — when fully grown with roots spreading outwards — can also be used as a source of soil conservation as is being done in the country of Haiti, where breadfruit trees are grown to stop soil erosion from the hills.

During his weekend radio program, the governor spoke about the importance of breadfruit as a food source and food security for American Samoa. He said that Samoan breadfruit species ‘ma’afala is more nutritious than the potato — a finding by scientists.

Togiola then revealed plans for the “Ulu Festival” or breadfruit festival that will held in November just around the Thanksgiving holiday and will be a one day event, which will include an ‘ulu’ recipe competition.

He said individuals the public wanting to compete in the competition should come up with food prepared with and includes breadfruit and suggested that individuals take time to sit down and write your own personal recipe for the breadfruit dish. Togiola said the recipe can be presented along with the food dish during the day of the competition, showing how the dish was prepared.

He hopes that after the “Ulu Festival” American Samoa will be able to come up with a recipe book for the many different dishes involving breadfruit.


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