PNG products stir the air in Auckland

22/03/2016

Papua New Guinea (PNG) was one of four countries that Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I) NZ hosted at last week’s Pasifika Festival in Auckland. The other three were Samoa, Tonga and Fiji but this was the first time that PNG had a presence at the region’s biggest Pacific-themed festival.

[caption id="attachment_7857" align="alignleft" width="450"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/rsz_1beunasatuLARGE.jpg"><img class="wp-image-7857 size-full" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/rsz_1beunasatuLARGE.jpg" alt="rsz_1beunasatuLARGE" width="450" height="338" /></a> Auckland craft store Buana Satu's Manager Helen tries out a Bilum shoulder bag as PNG delegates look on. The store bought the bags and baskets from the visitors.[/caption]

The participation of the four countries at Pasifika and meetings with potential buyers after the event was the culmination of PT&amp;I’s delivery of the Path to Market Programme for exporters and export-ready businesses in each of these countries in 2015.

An added bonus to participants this year was the presence of PT&amp;I Trade Commissioners from Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand besides senior officials from Switzerland and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Fiji, who were all in Auckland for their annual conference. The Trade Commissioners and officials spent a day interacting with the participants at the festival venue.

“This is a great opportunity for our team of Trade Commissioners to see Auckland as the hub for Pacific activity, visiting as they are during Pasifika Week,” PT&amp;I NZ Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade said.

PNG’s Buna Treks &amp; Tours and PNG Highland Adventures showcased their many ecotourism packages while Banz Coffee Fectory displayed a range of coffee products. Top Choice Investments stirred considerable interest with their cured vanilla beans while the country’s investment promotion agency (PNG-IPA) showcased the range of investment opportunities available in the country and the Government’s initiatives to assist investors.

“Meeting and talking with so many different people was a great learning experience. It is important to know our markets first hand,” said Jenny Wal Gonapa, Sales &amp; Marketing Manager of PNG Highland Adventures. As well as promoting tours on PNG’s world famous Kokoda Track, Ms Gonapa, like her colleague Florence Bunari, Director of Marketing of Buna Treks &amp; Tours, also promotes the country’s many exotic crafts.

<strong>High interest in PNG crafts</strong>

[caption id="attachment_7858" align="alignleft" width="640"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Museum-Orig.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-7858" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Museum-Orig.jpg" alt="Lias Varga (right) Retail Manager of Auckland's War Memorial Museum speaks to PNG delegates. The museum store bought Bilum bags and baskets." width="640" height="480" /></a> Lisa Varga (right) Retail Manager of Auckland's War Memorial Museum speaks to PNG delegates. The museum store bought Bilum bags and baskets.[/caption]

In fact, the PNG contingent was quite successful in introducing their crafts to Auckland’s art and craft retail market and actually achieving sales. Helen, Store Manager of Buana Satu, which stocks and sells crafts from many parts of the world spoke at length with Ms Gonapa and Ms Bunari about customer preferences and bought a few wicker baskets and bilum products. Bilum is a traditional craft of weaving mostly garments and bags from dried fibre extracted from tree bark, animal fur, sisal or vine, which has been passed down for centuries from one generation of women to the next. “Bilum is rather rare in the New Zealand market and it is good to see this unique craft here,” Ms Helen said.

Bilum bags and baskets were also a hit at the prestigious Auckland War Memorial Museum’s in-house store. Retail Manager Lisa Varga said she was delighted to carry a stock of the merchandise at the store and bought a few items that were ready at hand. She also asked for a pictorial catalogue and price list of items to be emailed to the museum for future ordering. Ms Varga spent more than half an hour learning about PNG’s crafts and the alluring stories behind them, while also giving the visitors tips on retail.

The PNG team said they benefited greatly by visiting the retail establishments in terms of learning how items were displayed and priced. At the Trade Aid store at Sylvia Park Mall, they were shown similar items from other source countries by Store Manager David, who also evinced much interest in the PNG craft products. However, Trade Aid buys its product through a centralised purchasing system and the PNG team was given their contact details and encouraged to establish contact.

<strong>Extra-long vanilla pods</strong>

[caption id="attachment_7859" align="alignleft" width="234"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/400-x-Large-Max-Maima-.jpg"><img class=" wp-image-7859" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/400-x-Large-Max-Maima-.jpg" alt="Max Maima with his extra-long vanilla pods from PNG." width="234" height="312" /></a> Max Maima with his extra-long vanilla pods from PNG.[/caption]

Earlier at the Pasifika Festival, PNG vanilla exporter Max Maima of Top Choice Investments Limited stirred much interest with potential buyers displaying newly-discovered extra-long vanilla pods. Mr Maima, who is from the Maprik District in the Wewak Province told <em>Pacific Periscope</em> he believed this could be a new variety of vanilla pod – one that he had never seen before.

“The farmers brought in the beans a few months ago,” he said. “They are longer than average, between 20 and 40 cm long, and contain more vanillin and a different fragrance.

I was surprised about this bean, I am not sure of its origins but I will still do my research. I was wondering where they got this. The farmers called these beans ‘Mamby’ or ‘Bamboo Beans’ --probably a mix of the planifolia and tahitensis pods,” he added. They were on display only at Pasifika, as he wanted to have the beans tested to identify the variety.

Though it was his first time in Auckland and first trip away from PNG, he is quite familiar with the international vanilla market through exports and selling online through the well-known auction site, Alibaba.com. He is also a coffee agent and brought a few packs of PNG coffee to sell. Mr Maima began exporting in 2002, fortuitously during a vanilla boom when prices peaked at about 700 kina a kilo.

He is exporting “good quantities” to buyers in Europe, France, Germany, Hungary and Turkey and is expecting to export 20-30 tonnes by the end of this year. In addition, he is assisted by the PNG Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) to find more reputable importers. “The farmers are happy now and I just try to assist them,” he said.

Mr Maima has already found two New Zealand buyers, one who bought 50kg at the Pasifika Festival. PT&amp;I had introduced him to another buyer.

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