Samoa’s revitalising of its taro industry saw the first trial shipments into New Zealand in August this year with four more consignments arriving in the past two months.
This is part of the revival of Samoa’s taro exports into the New Zealand and Australian markets after the industry was destroyed by the taro leaf blight. It took over a decade to breed the five resistant varieties Samoan farmers now grow.
Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I) in Auckland is working with Samoa Agro Marketing (SAM) in re-establishing a market for taro in New Zealand. SAM facilitates exports of agriculture commodities from Samoa to New Zealand, Australia and the US, working with government agencies in the export markets like Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in New Zealand.
PT&I’s assistance to the SAM team is through the facilitation of the initial meetings with three main distributors of fresh produce in Auckland. Working with the Samoa Trade Commission Office in Auckland, this collaborative effort saw the fostering of a long term relationship with one distributor who has just received a fifth container load of taro from Samoa.
PT&I is also assisting the SAM marketing team with its marketing strategy by providing some resources to enable the team to visit Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch to carry out further consultations with Samoan communities and to also identify importers of frozen taro and cassava in these cities.
“So far we have been successful in the trial shipments of our Samoa taro, however we still see the need for more market promotions and a better understanding of the perception of the consumer needs to be undertaken in New Zealand. In the medium term we will need to sustain this market and the next stage of this project is to further undertake market promotion,” a SAM representative told Pacific Periscope.
The marketing strategy is innovative in that it is also a survey. While the product is targeted directly at the Samoan and Pacific Islands communities through weekly flea markets, veggie shops and presentations to community and church leaders, SAM is also keen to find out what buyers look for in the product. Is it the taste or the appearance? Or is it both? Would there be a demand for frozen taro or even peeled, processed taro? These are the questions that SAM thinks will help deliver a product to consumer preferences.