Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand and Tongan exporter Nishi Trading have positive results from Tongan Export Week run parallel with New Zealand’s Tonga Language Week from 4-9 September.

Nishi Trading’s Minoru Nishi (centre) with the team at Turners & Growers.

New Zealand’s Pacific Island Languages Weeks are an opportunity for island communities to celebrate and promote their language and culture. But it also provides the perfect platform for Pacific countries to promote products from their nations.

PTI New Zealand, Turners & Growers, Nishi Trading, Tinopai Farms, Tofe Ofa Atu and CocoNew – The Agency worked together to establish Tongan Export Week to promote a range of products from Tonga currently sold in New Zealand.

Heading the team from Nishi Trading was Joanna Bourke (Marketing Consultant, CocoNew – The Agency) and Minoru Nishi (Managing Director) with support from PTI New Zealand’s Joe Fuavao.

Promotional events included food sampling demonstrations at New World Victoria Park supermarket; a buyer’s breakfast at Turners & Growers finishing up with tasting and giveaways at La Cigale Markets over the weekend. The promotions highlighted Tongan fresh produce and introduced people to different ways of preparing and combining mature coconuts, butternut, squash and watermelon.

It was also perfect timing as Tonga’s fresh produce is available in all major supermarkets and retailers.

“Our aim was to expand the promotion of Tongan products outside our traditional markets into communities in central Auckland. Tongan Language Week provided a platform for us to build a campaign that would showcase our culture and promote our products to New Zealanders who are not aware that the products they are buying from supermarkets come from Tonga,” Ms Bourke said.

Customer feedback was positive and very encouraging. Although visitors were keen to buy the fresh produce and frozen products, the campaign was held to gauge consumer interest before introducing the new products to the market.

However, Mr Nishi was excited about exporting ‘ready-to prepare’ cassava, sweet kumara and yam to New Zealand next year and further promotions.

“The door is open for a new line of products,” Mr Nishi said.

Healthy packaged foods from Tonga.

PTI Trade Development Manager Joe Fuavao said the Tonga Export Week was a great way, not only to increase awareness about Tongan produce but to tell the stories about these businesses and highlight the flavour differences to consumers.

“Often fresh produce from Tonga are exported in bulk with no labelling to distinguish their products from its competitors.”

The early morning breakfast promotion at Turners & Growers (T&G) on Friday was timed to coincide with the morning buyers’ rush.  The T&G Fresh Produce Market Café sales area entrance was branded with Tongan Export Week signage. Tables of fresh food laden with samples of watermelons, butternut, coconuts, frozen root crops and a selection of beautiful Tongan jewellery were displayed.

But the generous sized food samples were the star of the show buttering up a few hungry buyers. The entrée, cassava chips, was followed by a warm sweet kumara soup and a yam and bacon salad.  Dessert followed with the heavenly butternut tarts, all accompanied by ‘Otai’ a refreshing watermelon and coconut drink.

Shane O’Brien, T&G National Imports Manager said the promotion targeted independent retailers such as Fruit World and Farro Fresh.

T&G currently source from the Pacific Islands, mainly from Tonga with smaller amounts from Samoa.  Tonga are their biggest suppliers of coconut, watermelon, butternut and squash. The past seven years has seen a consistent and reliable supply of produce out of Tonga to meet the demands of the New Zealand market. Despite shipping issues and frustrations, T&G were pleased with Tonga’s supply.

Mr O’Brien who visited Tonga earlier this year said there were good future opportunities for Tonga who are now working on gaining GAP certification. Tonga was also working to reduce the need for fumigation of their watermelons in future.

For Nishi Trading, this promotion could lead to a new pathway and the launch of a new product range in 2018 aimed squarely at reaching the mainstream New Zealand market.

Nishi Trading is also the main sponsor for the ‘Mai e Nima’ (Give me 5) campaign in Tonga promoting healthy eating to primary school children. The programme is aligned to government and community initiatives to reduce obesity and the high incidence of non-communicable diseases.

Mr Nishi started the ‘Mai e Nima’ initiative in 2012 to target primary school children, raising awareness levels about the importance of healthy eating, adding more fruit and vegetables into Tongan children’s diets.

The ‘Mai e Nima’ child ambassadors for the programme, two live-wires Christopher Latu and Charlize Vete were exported to New Zealand to help promote the healthy eating message throughout the week. They went on media interviews and several kindergartens and school visits in Auckland and Wellington.

“The idea is to plant the seed of healthy eating in children whilst they were young so they could continue eating healthy foods as they grow older,” said Mr Nishi.

“The momentum is there and we need to keep going to promote it more and looking at complementary products out of Tonga,” Mr Nishi added.

They are considering making the Mai E Nima programme visit to New Zealand an annual event.

For more information please contact Joe Fuavao, PTI Trade Development Manager on

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