Tonga’s Hahake District Council to offer taro samples at Pasifika

If you’ve never tried taro and coconut cream before, Tonga’s Hahake District Working Council (HDWC) will be offering samples at the Pasifika Business Market for everyone to try.  The HDWC are part of Tonga’s delegation to Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand’s Pasifika Business Market hosting more than 35 companies from 11 Pacific island countries at Auckland’s Pasifika Festival from 24-25 March.   But getting the taro to Pasifika will be an achievement and a poignant moment for the Council whose district was worst hit by Cyclone Gita last month.

Maile Tanigitau and Kapeli Lanumata will represent Hahake District despite the area sustaining significant damage.

“With Cyclone Gita’s visit, the impact was severe, however, recovery is quick. The council members are not able to send the intended quantity of taro for the Pasifika Festival, but all have responded immediately and resume cultivation, so it is expected that the local markets would soon have abundant farm produce,” HDWC’s Maile Akauola said.

PTI NZ invited the HDWC to attend the Pasifika Business Market as part of its Path to Market programme – a structured approach for island based exporters to understanding the New Zealand market.

Prior to the Cyclone, the Council had planned to send a cargo load of taro and coconuts.  But since the Cyclone the area had some of the worst damage in the Eastern or Hahake District.

“The Hahake District Working Council was to supply a container of fresh young coconuts and taro but now is only limited to cartons of taro as majority of the coconuts were affected,” Senior Trade Officer, MCCTIL said.

Mr Akauola said the original plan was to ship a 20 ft container of taro to New Zealand, both for display and sell, however, Cyclone Gita’s visit to the kingdom greatly affected the quantity planned, “We can now only able to get enough taro; three varieties, for display and sampling. With the change of plan, the product will be sent by plane, two days before the event and the amount will be approximately; 11 cartons of 25kg each.”

Although the volume of taro is smaller, they will still offer samples of a Tongan dessert made from Taro called Fakakakai Taro and boiled taro and coconut cream for people to try.  Their objective is to identify market opportunities for taro, young coconut and other agricultural commodities and explore value added opportunities.

“Because, the intention is to seek marketing opportunities at an international level for our Growers Council, attendance at the Pasifika Festival is of utmost importance. Exporting taro is still at the infant stage as members of the ‘Eastern District Growers Council’ are still hoping to secure markets that directly work with the council and not through a ‘middle man’ arrangement. As mentioned above, the members of the council have other products, such as watermelon, yam, kumara and tapioca, securing direct markets for these is a priority.”

They will also participate in PTI’s Path to Market programme after Pasifika.  This includes a Gap Analysis, Site visits and one to one meetings with potential distributors.

“I wish to convey to all who would visit the Pasifika Festival that Tonga was struck by Gita but not crushed. Tonga appreciates the chance and is hoping for more and sustained opportunities to market our food products, especially our root crops. Our Growers Council wants markets,” Mr Akauola said.

PTI NZ is holding fundraising activities at the Pasifika Business Market to assist with disaster relief efforts.

For more information email Joe Fuavao, PTI NZ Trade Development Manager on joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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