HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 574:27 July 2011

Budget a dream breaker for Mangaian agriculture

The Opposition urges a Board be set up to direct agriculture’s recovery

During the Budget debate on Vote: Agriculture in parliament on Monday afternoon, Mangaia opposition Hon MP Winton Pickering called on government to set up a Board to progress the industry. He was the second to last speaker on agriculture.
Pickering told the House he had waited 8 yrs for meaningful progress. He said there was nothing in the Budget for agriculture in Mangaia. The Budget had broken dreams.
Pickering said what was needed was a government that was going to make a serious commitment.
He said MPs and the Ministry had always passed the buck around.
He urged the Minister and his Associate to put together something of serious substance before the next budget to kick start agriculture.
Pickering said among the MPs were two of the best growers the country had ever produced. He referred to Associate Agriculture Minister Hon Kiriau Turepu and Opposition Leader Hon Robert Wigmore. He said they were two of the finest growers this country has produced.
Pickering offered up some comments and suggestions for government to consider. These were;
1. Try and deliver on something
2. Paw paws had been talked about for a long time. Grower’s hard efforts had gone to waste for lack of a market.
3. He commended the Tourism Minister for committing serious funding to the tourism sector.
4. Government should consider formulating a Board to look at agricultural issues. It would sill stimulate the Ministry. The Minister of Agriculture should consider it.
5. No funds had been given to promoting agriculture.
6 The time had come to do something as the Demos had not produced the goods. There were some good assets and people. He said people in Mangaia had given up.
7. Growers were experiencing hardship.
8. A group should be set up to see why the paw paw industry had failed. Look at crops that provide a quick cash return not long term crops like vanilla. Avocados were worth looking at. Ours were more tasty. Bananas in NZ are tasteless. We grow the best tasting bananas but cannot get them to market.
9. He will support government. Perfect existing crops first (40 yr old crops) before trying new crops.
10. Growers have difficulty getting access to funds.
11. No-one in the Ministry is under the age of 40 yrs.
12. The Ministry’s policy to stop importing fertilizer in favour of a local product, is supported.
13. There is a lack of consistency in supply by government of goods for farmers. Let private industry import fertilizers, etc, as this would be more beneficial in long term for growers than sending people to Tahiti to see how they grow watermelons.
14. Set up a Board or another year will go by and nothing will happen. Outer islanders are very hard working people but derive no direct benefit as they are unable to market their products. Government needs to find a market overseas. If government cannot deliver, find someone else to do the job.
The Minister for Education Hon Teina Bishop then rose to speak on Vote: Agriculture. He was the last to speak on agriculture.
Bishop said he had been in the House for many years. He had heard the same arguments over and over again. He felt the House should talk about the sister islands first before discussing other issues. He said there was a need to get their allocation right.
Aitutaki to export taro, taro taroa to NZ
On the topic of how agriculture should be done Bishop told the House he had an important announcement to make.
Bishop told the House that the first container of taro and taro taroa will soon be heading to NZ from Aitutaki. A Reef Shipping vessel was on its way and would pick up the produce. He said people were asking for market and there were 50,000 Cook Islanders in NZ. “That’s our market.” Said Bishop.
Bishop told the House the produce would be transported free of charge by Reef to help Cook Islands agriculture. The CIP he said had promoted such partnerships with private sector in the election run up. He referred to the Chinese machinery being taken to Aitutaki free of charge by Reef shipping. This was, he said, a Commercial relationship with Reef.
Export of Aitutaki Nono being considered
Bishop then said he had an announcement of action to make.
He announced that as a result of the recent visit by a delegation from the Chinese (Business Round table Council in NZ), the Reef boss (Phil McNichol) had decided to look into the setting up of a Nono processing plant on Aitutaki. The materials for construction would be shipped up from NZ. Bishop said there was enough Nono in Aitutaki now for processing. He said Reef would also be shipping Nono barrels to Aitutaki. A shade house would be Aitutaki’s contribution.
Bishop said the Aitutaki Mayor and Council had met with MOIP Minister Hon Teariki Heather on Monday morning in Aitutaki and obtained agreement for Government workers to help clean all the Nono plantations ready for harvesting. The three Chinese tractors will assist with the job.
Further information provided by Bishp’s office is that Andrew Bailey, Chairman of Reef Shipping went to Aitutaki last Saturday to discuss Nono processing with growers. It was an information sharing exercise with positive dialogue. It was seen as the start of a potentially ongoing relationship to boost the production of Nono on Aitutaki. There is a need to firstly gauge the feasibility of setting up a processing plant. There is a need for more research into the quality of the Nono and the quantity that can be grown to ensure a sustainable supply.
Why Atiu taro export scheme failed
Bishop said he wished the Independent Atiu MP Norman George was present to hear about the action regarding Aitutaki taro. Bishop told the House that previously with Mann Unia, an action man, they designed a programme where government workers helped Atiu growers. They started exporting taro from Atiu. Bishop said he got bank overdraft of $5,000 so that growers could be paid on the spot. AIt was a personal undertaking by him.
They then got Air Rarotonga to help transport the taro in time to connect with an Air NZ flight to Auckland. Air NZ charged a very good price of $2 a kilo to to freight the taro to NZ. He said the policy was for growers to get not less than 50% of NZ price. This did not quite work out. In the end they got $2.50 a kilo out of the landed price of $6.
Bishop said two things killed this export scheme.
1- They could not get enough supply of taro for the next shipment.
2- People in NZ added $20 to the price of $60 making the cost a bag, $80.
NZ Cook Islanders were taking advantage of the Atiu growers so it was decided to pull out of scheme.
Others also wanted to get on band wagon. Bishop said he made a loss.
Bishop said the market there and the growers there. You just have to ensure things work right.
Bishop said when Taro was last sent to NZ from Aitutaki in 1995/96, they made $90,000.
Minister Agriculture Hon Nandi Glassie rose to thank all speakers and said agriculture will be second revenue earner in next three years.
At 4.15pm members voted that the appropriation for Agriculture stand fast.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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