HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 578: 24 August 2011

Trip may herald closer ties with Tahiti

The recent trip to Tahiti by Cook Islands growers to study developments by Tahitians in agriculture had its beginnings some two years ago when some local growers asked about going to Tahiti as a potential place to see what they were doing due to the similarity in climate.
The group was well received by the Tahitians and the prospects for future co-operative efforts look good.
Business and Trade Development Board (BTIB) CEO Terry Rangi told the Herald on Tuesday morning that the BTIB has had a close relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture since 2005. This relationship said Rangi was linked to development, up-skilling, assisting growers, adopting various technologies/machinery/equipment and innovative ideas and administering the Outer Islands development Grant Fund.
Rangi said it was not until the recent Economic Summit that plans to visit Tahiti firmed up.
At the outset some 40 growers expressed an interest in visiting Tahiti. The group was vetted to ensure only fulltime growers went. Eventually after some withdrawals, 25 were confirmed before the 25 May 20011 deadline. However, additional persons joined the group taking the number to 32.
Rangi outlined the main reasons for the trip as follows;
1. To improve knowledge and skills in producing crops all year round.
2. Enhance knowledge and skills related to production.
3. Learn how to apply appropriate models and methods.
4. Consider setting up a national body similar to the Tahitians Chamber of Agriculture.
The growers paid their own way but it was always a government led delegation. The group departed Rarotonga on Thursday 11 August 2011 and was to return on 18 August.
Agriculture Minister Hon Nandi Glassie met his Tahitian counterpart, Minister Kalani and the President of Tahiti Nui Oscar Temaru. Matavera MP and Associate Minister for Agriculture Hon Kiriau Turepu who is a grower was also present as was Aitutaki MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mona Ioane. The visit programme was organized by the Tahitians.
On the next day, Friday, the group spent the day on Moorea.
During their time in Tahiti, the group visited and saw organic farms, pineapple plantations, a pineapple juicing factory, a dairy farm, fish processing plant, noni farms and processors, vanilla farms, a copra factory, a bee keeping and honey operation, a flower operation and the main market place.
Rangi said the Tahitians applied a lot of common sense techniques to achieve a high yield with minimum labour for example, compared to Cook Islands growers, they planted more pineapples to a row with rows very close to reduce weeds.
The Tahitians also seemed to have a passion and hunger for innovation and were constantly evolving with backing from their research facilities. The Cook Islands by comparison was not progressing.
According to Rangi, from what he observed and learnt, his view is that the Cook Islands are some 15 years behind Tahiti in terms of agricultural development, research and production. The Tahitians are now able to supply 35% of their own requirements compared to the Cook Islands where less than 10% of our needs can be accommodated. The Tahitians said Rangi are aiming to increase this self sufficiency to 50% in line with their food security targets. They are also working on seeking alternatives for flour.
Rangi noted that in Tahiti, a lot of young people were involved in agriculture and their government promoted the industry well.
Since returning for Tahiti, Rangi said BTIB had set up a committee which would collect the information obtained for circulation to the rest of the group. A report will be done on the expected outcomes. An objective will be to share the practical knowledge obtained with the rest of the industry and seek to establish networks with the Tahitian stakeholders and businesses.
Rangi said the expected outcomes from the trip were:
1. Improved agricultural development.
2. Improved crop delivery to market.
3. Farmers have enhanced know how and skill.
4. Improved business development systems and processes.
5. Maintain and strengthen relationships with Tahiti and other related counterparts especially at government level.
According to Rangi, Tahitian Minister for Agriculture Kalani, plans to visit the Cook Islands in 8 months time to see how our agriculture sector is doing.
In terms of the potential long term developments, Rangi said BTIB would be looking at various models to enhance domestic production and exports. Some years ago an MOU with Tahiti was drafted but never endorsed.
Rangi would not speculate whether this latest co-operative effort with Tahiti would signal the start of a move towards closer economic relations given there are economic similarities. We both share the major industries tourism and fishing. We both have outer islands and face challenges in regard to sea and air transportation. Our language and culture is similar. Our agriculture is similar and while we are focused on developing agriculture to meet the needs of the local market with a growing focus on import substitution, we are not considered serious competitors with Tahiti in agricultural exports. Their links are to France and Europe while ours are to NZ and Australia.
In terms of agricultural research, we could seek to benefit from Tahiti’s better equipped research facility.
Tahiti has a higher cost of living due to French support of their economy and this could benefit exporters of some of our high quality items through higher prices. For instance, there is a demand in Tahiti for our northern rito hats which will fetch up to $300 per hat compared to $120 on the local market.
Rangi said the Tahitians regard the Cook Islands as their “smaller” brother and that there is a willingness on their part to assist us to develop.
This special relationship goes back some years as according to former agriculturalist Michael Tavioni there was considerable co-operation with Tahiti during the 1970s where, for example, the Cook Islands assisted Tahiti with its pineapple plantations (1974-1975). Cook Islands oranges were also exported to Tahiti.
- Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 554 09 March
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- 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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