DOA says no tests needed on produce or for soil contamination
Acting Director Department of Agriculture, Peter Gurr said there was no reason to conduct testing to determine if illegal chemical were being used on the farms. He said farmers simply need to follow the compliance requirements, as Food Safety is the Department’s priority. The Acting Director was responding to Samoa News questions following complaints by farmers that they are still waiting on DOA officials to visit their farms.
One farmer told Samoa News it’s unclear what the method was that was used by DOA or what type of tests they are conducting, and if they will share the results of these tests with the farmers regarding soil contamination, or are they just basing their conclusion by what they see on or around the farm about what they say are illegal chemicals, and overuse of fertilizers.
Another farmer said this — the closing of their farm — has had a huge impact on their family as their family depends solely on their farm for income, as well as a food source, yet they have to wait for DOA to inspect their farm, and only then will they be allowed to submit their produce to the School Lunch Program and to the local stores.
Gurr told Samoa News over the phone, “If illegal chemicals are used and unsanitary conditions around the farm are observed during harvest and post-harvest, there is no reason to conduct testing —these farmers have failed to meet the basic standards required to be certified farmers. Farmers simply need to follow the compliance requirements.
“We have been certifying farmers each day, and will continue to do so as they meet the necessary requirements,” he said.
One DOA employee told Samoa News that the governor has directed government agencies to assist the DOA in their inspection work. The DOA employee also said that there are numerous complaints to their office on the delay of the DOA official to inspect their farms.
As reported earlier, Gurr in his October 26, 2016 letter informed local storeowners and managers, restaurants and roadside stands that DOA “uncovered numerous violations by some local farmers” during routine DOA farm inspections in October. The letter outlined the various violations and stated that DOA is suspending the selling of all locally grown produce except for local taro, green bananas, ripe bananas and hydroponically-grown vegetables until further notice.
Gurr had sent an identical letter, Oct. 25, to the local Education Department recommending the suspension of locally grown vegetables to the school lunch program, with the same exceptions, until further notice.