A Cook Islands entrepreneur was so inspired by the Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Trade Mission in 2015 that he added new products and hired new staff.
Framheim Koteka of Te Winery Extractors and Distillers (TWED) based in Rarotonga was a delegate on the PT&I SIDS Trade Mission last year.
His company is well known in the Cook Islands for producing local wines, liqueurs and vodka made from local fruits such as vanilla, pawpaw, mango, banana as well as passionfruit and coconut.
Mr Koteka said he was inspired after his trip to New Zealand in seeing what else he could do.
So much so that he hired two more staff and started working on producing cocoa liqueur and chocolate. Although his first attempts at the chocolate liqueur were not too good he said, they were working on it.
But he is now keenly working toward becoming an organic farmer of vanilla and noni. It’s an astute move that coincides with plans by the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture to work with FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) on a joint project to produce more nutritious and safe food for the local market. The project will focus on crops such as noni, vanilla, pineapple along with fruit and vegetables aimed at the winter season tourist market. The project is being implemented by the New Zealand based development consultancy FCG ANZDEC with the Research and Extension Division of the Department of Agriculture. Trainings were held for selected micro and small enterprises in Rarotonga, in production and post-harvest processing of organic vanilla beans and noni grown on the island of Mangaia.
However, it was reported in the Cook Islands News that the uptake for the Vanilla Business Support Fund was slow. The Cook Islands Government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Business Trade Investment Board (BTIB) were encouraging growers to use the Vanilla Business Support Fund. By July this year, no one had applied for the funds. A meeting was called and eight growers met with the Agriculture Secretary Matairangi Purea, Vanilla Consultant Teariki Matenga and BTIB representative Piltz Napa, according to a report in the Cook Islands Times (July 14, 2016)
Mr Koteka said he was very interested in growing vanilla and had already visited the island of Mauke to view potential plots for vanilla near his family land. What he found was a veritable goldmine of vanilla virtually growing wild. One of the farmers had many vanilla plant vines wrapped around fig trees.
Mr Koteka is planning to plant more vanilla in Mauke but also to grow cocoa in Rarotonga near his home. However, his first major concern was to ensure the Cook Islands had internationally accepted food standards to enable exporters to access international markets. At present Mr Koteka says there are no internationally accepted food standards being used in the Cook Islands and this was essential to export to wider markets.
Mr Koteka is now in the process of upgrading his processing plant to international food standards grade.
He already has a strong local market for liqueurs and fruit wines so he felt there was no need to export. However, with vanilla and cocoa Mr Koteka said it was important to get the steps right at the start to ensure they would be producing products that could be exported and acceptable internationally. Having the right food standards was essential, he said. “We need to sell products that are safe and nutritious.”
Mr Koteka was researching the processes needed to implement food standards in the Cook Islands and meeting with key agencies. Mr Koteka visited the PT&I offices with Bernard Schneider of Sonnentor, Export Australasia. He will be working with Mr Koteka and can assist him towards achieving the food standards required for the international market.
For more information please contact Joe Fuavao, Trade Development Manager, PT&I at firstname.lastname@example.org