Samoa's Tanumapua Farm bananas, ready for export
Apia, SAMOA — Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi walked away impressed with the Tanumapua Farm swift recovery from Hurricane Gita at the end of a brief tour by Cabinet Wednesday this week.
Of particular interest to the Prime Minister is the Tanumapua Farm's Banana Plantation which has bounced back as if Tropical Cyclone Gita did not crippled over 50% of the crop.
Less than 6 months after the Cyclone, Tanumapua's banana production line is back on full steam.
And the Prime Minister is even more impressed when told that the Tanumapua Farm has the capacity to export a container of fresh green bananas anytime. However the first shipment under the arrangement between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries with the Samoa Banana Growers is schedule to leave in September.
The schedule is to allow other commercial banana farms to have a share in the container.
For the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, the visit provided the crucial ingredients to assist them with future decisions when it comes to the banana farm industry and most importantly sustaining the new export door of opportunities in New Zealand.
"From what we saw, banana export is not for the faint hearted," said Tuilaepa.
"The banana export sector is for farmers who have the resources, finances, equipment and manpower to ensure sustainability," says Tuilaepa. "It needs visionaries like Charlie Westerlund who has the experience, the resources and the patience.
"It's my understanding that for our banana export strategy to get off the ground, three other banana farmers, (Ututa’aloga Charlie Ulia and Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau) are working with Charlie for the initial export shipment.
"And I've been informed by the Ministry that while export is a priority, it will slowly and surely expand to individual family growers so that they will also be able to export their bananas.
"All in all, the on-site visit today is more than a fact finding mission but has equipped Cabinet with first class information on how Government can continue to facilitate the growth of our banana growers."
For Tanumapua Farm, General Manager Leota Laumata Peleta with years of experience with the Ministry of Agriculture, he attributes the success of the banana plantation to his boss, Taimalie Charlie Westerlund.
"Taimalie singlehandedly restored banana production back to normal after Cyclone Gita destroyed over 60% of our crops," said Leota.
"Today, we have best our weekly production of ripe bananas from 10 tonnes a week before Gita to almost 12 tonnes a week.
"Our weekly output of 6 tonnes a week for green bananas to cater for our local market is back to normal levels but demand is increasing while banana chips makes up 2 tonnes a week."
Leota noted that with the quick recovery, Tanumapua alone can export a container now however the export initiative is a partnership among members of the Samoa Banana Growers, Tanumapua and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Overall, the Prime Minister complimented the Tanumapua Farm brainchild noting that with 80 staff on the payroll, its represents over families benefiting from Taimalie's labour of love.
"More importantly," concluded the Prime Minister, " the jobs represents revenues for government from income and corporate taxes, not to mention new export revenues which will contribute to our Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) and Foreign Reserves."