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Samoa MP fears Fiji might pinch new Samoan taro varieties

“Protect our new taro varieties – Fiji might take them.” Such was the call by Faleata West MP Aveau Nikotemo Palamo in Parliament.Fiji has profited from cultivating the taro Niue, a variety from Samoa, which they sell overseas – to Samoans there.Fiji has controlled the overseas market when the Samoan variety was wiped by the taro leaf blight in 1993 and since then, vigorous research have produced several local varieties similar to what was ‘taro Niue’ and are not susceptible to the blight.“Protection was needed in case our new varieties, bred from local taro, are grown in Fiji,” the Opposition MP said.But Agriculture Minister Le Mamea Ropati said our many varieties came from taro from other countries.Former Agriculture Minister Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau supported this saying one variety the ‘talo fili’ was created from taro from the Philippines.“Exchange was not a bad thing,” Le Mamea said.It needed only a piece of leaf to reproduce a taro plant, he said.Aveau also urged Government to appeal to Samoans in Australia and New Zealand to buy taro from home to benefit relatives here and our country.Well-known is the preference for Samoans in New Zealand for taro Niue from Fiji.A favourite food it was amongst the local varieties wiped out by the taro leaf blight in 1993.Vigorous research saw local and overseas taro combined to breed multiple new varieties both resistant to the blight – and containing some of the taste of the old varieties.Continuous research has led to gradual improvement and hybrid varieties have become good enough for export.But overseas Samoans prefer taro Niue from Fiji.Aveau also called on Agriculture to look at the restrictions imposed on taro exports by Australia.