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DOA rejects claims of bias against Asian farmers

Agriculture Department director Lealao M. Purcell has rejected claims of bias made by Asian vegetable farmers, who allege that DoA is responsible for barring them from selling their produce directly to the federally funded School Lunch Program, administered by the Department of Education.

The allegations first surfaced two weeks ago, when Samoa News received information from two Asians who claimed they were told by the School Lunch Program, that any foreigner in the territory selling produce must be brought in by their sponsor.

Lealao denied any bias, on their part, saying DoA had informed all farmers selling to the School Lunch Program that they must comply with regulations and this has been emphasized to them many times over.

Two of the Asian farmers told Samoa News they don’t want to involve their sponsors, who will end up taking a cut or the full payment, from their hard work when the check is issued directly to the sponsor’s name.

Lealao says that among the reasons the Asian farmers are not complying with the regulations is that they don’t want to pay taxes to the government and also they don’t want their sponsor to know how much money they are collecting for working the vegetable plantation. Lealao did not refer to the Asian farmers who lease land for their plantations independent of their sponsor or the fact that farmers do not pay taxes in the territory.

Lealao also says these farmers do not want DoA to get involved with the School Lunch Program; however, DoA is always involved for among other things, “we need to make sure that the chemicals used for local plantation is in compliance with local and federal regulations” to ensure the health and safety of the community who use locally grown food.