Samoa can officially begin exporting fresh banana and plantains to New Zealand again.
The breakthrough comes under a new export plan the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries have agreed upon.
The good news for banana farmers come after a long hiatus since Samoa stopped exporting fresh bananas to New Zealand because of issues concerning pests and diseases as well as inconsistencies with supplies.
This resulted in other Asian, Australian and South American countries stepping in to meet the demands of the New Zealand market.
In the past two years, the M.A.F. have been in discussions with the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries through its bilateral Quarantine Agreement meetings with an outcome that will see Samoa’s banana exports developing and growing again, but under strict import bio security requirements from New Zealand.
According to a press release from M.A.F, the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries will conduct audit visits of both pathways and will work closely with the M.A.F. as part of the Bilateral Quarantine Agreement within one and a half years of trade commencement. A formal signing of the export plan will take place during the next bilateral meeting.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, C.E.O of M.A.F. Tilafono David Hunter said they expected the number of banana growers to increase given the market opportunity.
He also stressed that the nascent stages of this bilateral trade is crucial and their Ministry will work to ensure that they support banana growers to pursue their full potential.
“The banana market in New Zealand is huge and our Ministry will support our banana growers and exporters to penetrate it and ensure sustainability of quality and supply, and most of all ensure compliance to New Zealand’s biosecurity requirements.
“With our strong support provided to our recently established banana association of 35 registered members, which may expand subject to interest shown for this market opportunity, our Quarantine Services will be stringent in the monitoring of the compliance by our banana growers and exporters as per our agreed production, postharvest handling, packaging, and labelling with New Zealand M.P.I.”
Tilafono also said it is vital that farmers and exporters understand that New Zealand Biosecurity standards must be met and there will be no tolerance of any violations.
“It is important for all our farmers and exporters to remember that New Zealand Biosecurity is not negotiable, period,” he said.
“And when we are given their blessings in terms of market access for our agricultural produce/products after long periods of negotiations, everyone has to play their respective roles to ensure that we don't destroy it. Not just our Ministry.”
Tilafono emphasized that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be taking a hard stance when it comes to their Quarantine Services policies, but they are also confident in the skills and experience of the Banana Association and its members.
“In short, if some of our banana growers and exporters don't comply then our Quarantine Services will not issue relevant biosecurity export documentations,” said Tilafono. “But our Minister and Ministry are confident that we will succeed, given the skills and experience of the highly distinguished members of the banana association and we will be on standby to play our role and support them as per our mandate.”
Through the re-commencement of export bananas and plantains in New Zealand, Samoa is the first country in the Pacific to have a Commodity Export Plan approved under the Ministry of Primary Industries’ update Import Health Standards system.