HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

New Moringa venture on Rarotonga
Rarotonga’s first commercial Moringa venture was launched after a short ceremony by Hugh Graham in Tupapa at 9am on Wednesday on land adjacent to Ariana Bungalows.
Attending the launch, were invited guests grower Danny Mataroa, BTIB CEO Terry Rangi and Minister for Agriculture Nandi Glassie. NZ High Commissioner John Carter was delayed until 10.30am.
After an opening prayer by Danny and a welcome by Hugh, Minister Glassie spoke briefly in praise of Hugh’s initiative. He said he was very honoured to see a new initiative. He said Hugh reminded him of Dr Fleming who discovered penicillin. Both men he said set out to look for something else and discovered a new use for an existing product.
Hugh had taken a plant intended for feeding goats and turned it into a health product with enormous potential. Glassie said he drank Moringa tea every morning and it had a cleansing effect and energized him.
He congratulated Hugh on this his first Rarotonga commercial planting.
After the speech, Terry, Nandi and Danny were invited to plant a young Moringa tree in a row of young trees named after each of them. Minister Glassie named his tree the “Atiu Warrior.”
The plants were 29 days old and will grow to about 1.5m high in three months when their young leaves will be ready to harvest. To date 600 have been planted on the site and eventually the site will have 1,500 to 2,000 Moringa trees.
Hugh told the Herald each plant will be fertilized with chicken manure mixed with water.
The plants will supplement the Rarotonga market with fresh leaves.
Hugh is also negotiating with two other growers to plant Moringa.
Following the planting ceremony, the guests were treated to a range of delicious snacks containing fresh Moringa leaves. They were treated to Moringa and fish in sandwiches and on crackers, Moringa and egg sandwiches, Moringa and onion dip and crackers, iced Moringa tea with honey and hot Moringa tea.
Why plant in Rarotonga? Hugh admited that the Moringa oleifera project was to take place only in Mauke, however as he continued to carry out research and investigations, he determined that there were more benefits of the Moringa than just livestock feed for his Boer Goats.
After looking at the markets, in particular the costs to get Moringa to the local Rarotonga market, we identified that it was just too costly to export the fresh leaves out of Mauke. The other issue was trying to keep the leaves as fresh as possible from the time of harvest, cleaning and sending to Rarotonga, then having it ready for the customers.
Hugh said the dried and powder form of the Moringa oleifera would be produced and processed in Mauke. Obviously the drying and powdering of the Moringa will mean that we can store them for longer periods of time before sending to the markets in Rarotonga and possible overseas market.
Establishing a plantation in Rarotonga would mean that we would be able to harvest, clean and have fresh Moringa oleifera leaves to customers without delay and thus also eliminating the extra freight costs if we were to fly them in from Mauke.
Hugh says that whilst 2000 Moringa oleifera plants may seem insignificant to some, it will definitely be able to supply the Rarotonga fresh leaf market. It is the intention to partner with another 2 landowners who might want to get into growing Moringa oleifera.
Hugh says that while he introduced Moringa oleifera to Mauke for the first time,the tree is already growing in Rarotonga. He has encountered over 20 trees around the island and estimates that the first lot of trees were introduced approximately 20 years ago.
However, Hugh admits that he is unsure what variety of Moringa that the ones here are. There are 13 varieties of Moringa at the moment. The variety he has introduced has been certified as the oleifera variety.
Hugh has a limited number of Moringa oleifera plants for sale, if you are interested, contact him on ph 52287. -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 608 21 March
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