Small islands' products surprise and delight Kiwi palates


Few Kiwis have ever tasted the fruit of the Divine Tree of the Marshall Islands – pandanus. To the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) the pandanus tree is revered for its non-food uses including construction, soil erosion, fuel and medicine.<!--more-->

[caption id="attachment_7531" align="alignleft" width="300"]<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-7531" src="" alt="Marshall Islands pandanus juice producer Iva Reimer-Roberts at the PT&amp;I Auckland office in November 2015." width="300" height="450" /></a> Marshall Islands pandanus juice producer Iva Reimer-Roberts at the PT&amp;I Auckland office in November 2015.[/caption]

RMI pandanus juice producer Iva Reimer-Roberts was in New Zealand promoting the product and introducing the New Zealand palate to the exotic fruit. Ms Reimer Roberts is one of six exporters from the smallest island states of the Pacific were in Auckland on the Pacific Islands Trade &amp; Invest Food and Beverage Exploratory Trade mission from November 9 to 13.

Pandanus from the RMI is one of the edible varieties found in a few of the Pacific islands. The fruit, rich in Vitamin A provides an important source of vitamins preventing immune system deficiencies, susceptibility to disease and a higher risk of blindness and anaemia.

Although the availability and abundance of the pandanus tree has been gradually declining over the years replaced by imported foods, scientists have been working with Marshallese communities to promote the health values of the fruit. In 2003 of 919 children surveyed, 59.5% were found to be vitamin A deficient. The yellowish-orange fruit grows in bunches and can weight from 10-15kgs.  The pandanus is also a hardy plant adaptable to growing in sandy, salty and dry atoll conditions.

RMI National Trade Advisor Miss Radika Kumar said the mission was crucial for RMI as a small island state and as part of the Government endorsed Be Marshallese, Buy Marshallese campaign to promote Marshallese made goods and services. The pandanus sector was unique to the RMI and the juice of the Pandanus exclusive to the islands. The potential was there for the product to reach an international market, with promotion and assistance in the area of improving product standards, this promotional forum is crucial, she said. Ms Robert-Reimers is investigating ways to prolong the short shelf-life of the juice which is bottled naturally without preservatives.

The wines and liqueurs, coconut products, pandanus juice and vanilla brought in by the delegates were introduced to guests and media at a networking evening.

Niue delegate Stan Kalauni’s organic Niue Vanilla International will be launching its range in New Zealand in the New Year. The product received attention from a vodka maker in France at the Fine Foods Australia show.

Framheim Koteka of the Cook Islands introduced a chilli liqueur that had chilli lovers raving.  Liqueurs made from local fruit such as banana, coconut and vanilla vodka were well received. Mr Koteka said the local fruit were naturally grown without fertilisers and these were used as the ingredients for the liqueurs and wines. The products were popular amongst tourists to the Cook Islands.

Meanwhile Tuvalu’s coconut sap sugar, syrup and virgin coconut oil products, although still in the early stages, received positive feedback says Tuvalu Coconut Traders Cooperative General Manager Pasivao Mani. Bernice Ngirkelau of Palau Aquaculture Co-operative describes Palau’s close relationship with the giant clam and how a new programme aimed at reseeding the reefs with the giant clams will start in 2016.

Pacific Islands Trade &amp; Invest (PT&amp;I) Trade Development Manager Teremoana Mato says despite the many challenges for small island states with rising sea levels from climate change, shipping costs and distances to market but they have not stopped trying.  International buyers are keen to know the unique stories behind the products.

Some of the delegates represent village set-ups, cooperatives and women’s groups who take pride in the unique production of products knowing every step of the production cycle closely monitoring the quality of their product says Mr Mato.

The programme was closely focused on the food and beverage industries. By meeting with chefs and hospitality industry representatives they were introduced to industry trends and opportunities from importers, distributors and retailers.  In addition, delegates could also address some of their concerns over exporting to New Zealand directly to government biosecurity and customs officials, private sector importers and buyers.

The mission was put together by PT&amp;I NZ and was supported by the Pacific Integration Technical Assistance Programme (PITAP) under the European Union.

For more information please contact Pacific Islands Trade &amp; Invest Trade Development Manager Teremoana Mato on <a href=""></a>

<em>[Iva Reimer-Roberts photo by Dev Nadkarni] </em>