Aitutaki fresh produce finds its way to Auckland


In a first for the Pacific Islands, a shipping company has come up with an innovative initiative to help move fresh produce from the islands to distant markets.<!--more-->

Reef Shipping has provided a 20-foot container on its Southern Express vessel to growers on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands to ship their produce directly to New Zealand. The Southern Express left the picturesque islands this week with a cargo of taro, tarutarua, and coconut destined for Auckland.

Frozen arrowroot, which can now be transported with the availability of a refrigerated container, will in all likelihood be included in a forthcoming shipment. According to estimates, a cargo of 600 tarutarua bags, at $50 each, has the potential to return about $30,000.

Auckland’s Aitutaki community will return any profits from the sale of the produce back to growers in Aitutaki. The Aitutaki Island Council is also involved in what has been a one-off instance but has the potential to be expanded into a regular programme.

A problem of shipping containers going to the islands is that they more often than not return empty. This is a novel way of putting them to use, while promoting health food alternatives while also helping island communities economically. Cook Islands Member of Parliament Teina Bishop echoed these sentiments saying it was hoped that at least one container of Aitutaki produce could be shipped to New Zealand for sale each month.

However, this is not the first time that Aitutaki produce has found its way to New Zealand. Back in the 1990s, exports of up to $90,000 were achieved. “Instead of just sitting back being hopeless, people now have the equipment to clear and plant their land. It’s encouraging people to get back to the land and back to basics,” the Member of Parliament says.

In another development, Reef Shipping has also announced that it will help put up a processing plant for Noni on Aitutaki. An announcement to this effect was made in the Cook Islands Parliament recently.