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Local farmers looking for new revenue streams, including export crops

Sending locally grown agriculture products to be sold in overseas markets is a dream— and hopefully one which can become a reality in the near future — for members of the local Farmers Association.

This thinking has come to the fore as local farmers witness the fast pace in which agriculture products enter the territory to be sold at local stores, taking away the opportunities from local farmers, according to the Farmers Association, with some member-farmers considering neighboring Samoa as the largest importer of agriculture products, i.e. taro and bananas.

Avei Sopoaga, a farmer from Pavaiai, said agricultural products such as taro and vegetables entering the territory to be sold at stores have taken away the opportunity for local farmers to sell their produce to the same stores. He said this has become a serious concern for local farmers, who have to compete with off-island farmers.

He said the income now going to off-island producers of agriculture should come to local farmers, who instead must look at other options to sell their locally grown produce.

Sopoaga said the only other option is to identify off-island markets, adding there are a lot of local farmers competing to supply the School Lunch Program.

As to selling produce at the Fagatogo Market Place, he says this is another option, but there are times when a farmer can spend hours at the market place with the hope of selling a lot, yet at the end of the day, the farmer doesn’t make much.

Sopoaga also made the point that Samoa has a larger population and therefore their large number of farmers are able to address that country’s high number of residents compared to American Samoa’s small population. He repeated that local farmers are competing with Samoa farmers.

Makerita Siliga of Faleniu said there are many Asians who have now become local farmers and they sell their produce to local stores as well as to the school lunch program. She said our local American Samoan farmers really need to pay close attention to this change or else “we, Samoan farmers in the future won’t even get any income from farming the land.”

Other farmers believe that if off -island markets can be identified for local produce that will be a big benefit, as this could be a new stream of income for them.

In the meantime, the farmers are looking forward to next year’s Taro Fair. They say, hopefully, by then, there will be sufficient proof of locally grown taro for export.

Department of Agriculture director Lealao M. Purcell says his office can assist in identifying off-island markets for export if there is sufficient supply to meet the demand. He suggests that local farmers continue to grow more of a variety of products to be sold at the market place and to the school lunch program.

Samoa News notes there is no mention by local farmers of the ‘prices’ charged by the off-island farmers, or local Asian farmers, which would be an important part of the reason their products are so successfully sold on island. For example, the $1.00 vegetable stalls were first initiated by the local Asian farmers — where fresh cabbage, beans, baby wonbok, corn etc. can be bought for a $1.00 a bundle. They have become a mainstay of many of the families on island, helping make ends meet, as well as offering healthy food choices at affordable prices.

(The original Samoan version of this story was published in yesterday’s edition of Samoa News Le Lali.)