Magele at the frontline

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Magele Mauiliu Magele, STIC Commissioner.
Magele Mauiliu Magele, STIC Commissioner.

(Pacific Peroscope); Samoa is back on track for banana exports after the first two successful shipments passed border checks by New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

Pacific Periscope spoke with the New Zealand Samoa Trade & Investment Commissioner Magele Mauiliu Magele at his office in the Fale o Samoa in Mangere, just before the second shipment in early December were due into shops.

“The first shipment went well.  Most of the retailers in Otara, Mangere and Otahuhu sold out,” he said.

The second shipment of green bananas were due on to shelves by 1 December. Samoa’s green bananas are being sold through dairies and small fruit retailers mostly in South Auckland.

Magele said there were teething problems with the first shipment but commended New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) for not destroying the whole shipment and instead to fumigate.  It was an important decision at a pivotal stage in Samoa’s banana export history.

It has been 50 years since Samoa’s last banana exports arrived into New Zealand and 30 years since interest in growing fell, due to availability of plant materials and the impact of climate change weather patterns.

Magele recalled that several years ago, a private banana shipment was destroyed by New Zealand Biosecurity after problems were found.

“I firmly believe if the spirit of PACER Plus wasn’t there, it probably would have been a different scenario. This has given an opportunity to help rather than destroy the whole thing. I believe it has helped with a general understanding, facilitating and solving problems,” he said.

PACER Plus is a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between 11 Pacific Island Forum Countries that allows trading between countries, avoiding unnecessary barriers and facilitating a predictable trade environment.  It provides for “more consistent and transparent rules throughout the region on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade and customs procedures,” according to the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, which also says PACER Plus will hopefully come into force in 2019. Signatory countries are in the process of legislating the agreement by their respective parliaments.

The historic first shipment of 500 cases of 13kg of bananas in August nearly didn’t make it to shop shelves, temporarily delayed due to ants found in two of the cases.  The shipment was fumigated without notable effect and the bananas were on the shelves by late Saturday.  By Monday, they were gone.  Sold out.

Many have waited years to see Samoa’s banana exports get back on track.

A collective sigh of relief from those involved including New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries, Samoa’s banana farmers through to top officials in Samoa’s Agricultural Ministry and the Mt Wellington importer Fresh Direct.

Over the initial speed bump, the Samoa Government have focused on the three banana suppliers to mitigate any further future issues. The continuing success of banana exports could encourage more farmers back to the banana growing industry Magele said. Getting the banana export market consolidated is the first step, but the next step is looking at ripe banana exports New Zealand. Magele plans to speak on the Samoa Language radio programmes following the success of future banana shipments.

Samoa’s Agricultural Minister Lopao’o Natanielu Mu’a, in an interview with Radio New Zealand said the industry was buoyant after the initial sales figures from New Zealand.  But they were still cautious about future exports.

Supporting SBN Business Trip to Samoa

New Zealand Samoa Trade Commissioner Magele Mauiliu Magele led the inaugural Samoa Business Network (SBN) Business Trip to Samoa in November. The trip was Magele’s first in his role as the Samoa Trade Commissioner in New Zealand.  It was also a milestone for SBN trip organisers — Chairs, Laura Keil-Hall (SBN NZ) and Jackie Curry-Malolo (SBN Samoa) who also hosted the first SBN Samoa Business Awards in October.

On the delegation were 11 Samoan entrepreneurs from eight businesses based in Australia, American Samoa and New Zealand.  Unfortunately, a few New Zealand businesses withdrew at the last minute.  The overall response from Samoa’s private sector was generally overall supportive.

As Samoa’s Government representative in New Zealand Samoa Trade Commissioner Magele supported SBN’s Business Trip liaising with Samoa’s Government departments and officials. 

Magele was proud of Samoa’s Ease of Doing Business rankings which puts it ahead of other countries in the Pacific. December’stradingeconomics.com listings had Samoa ranked 90th ahead of its closed neighbours Tonga 91st and Vanuatu 94th.  Samoa was also ahead of Pacific powerhouses Fiji and Papua New Guinea sitting just outside the top 100.  New Zealand won top ranking ahead of Australia, 18th.

The Ease of Doing Business helped promote SBN’s Business Trip to Samoa, exposing overseas Samoan business people to the business environment in Samoa.

Next year, Magele plans to be part of the NZ Samoa Trade and Investment Commission (NZSTIC) business mission to Samoa in July 2019 coinciding with the South Pacific Games 2019.

For more information contact PTI NZ Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong at ian.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz