Print this page

Careers drive: Fruit and vege growers needed to meet tourist demand

Wednesday June 12, 2019 Written by Published in Education
Local planter Tinirau Tamarua. 19061123 Local planter Tinirau Tamarua. 19061123

Numbers of Cook Islanders farming crops are declining, making it hard to meet growing demand for fresh food and vegetables.

Labour shortages, inexperience, lack of water supply and high transport costs are all making it harder to get produce to markets, the industry says.

Local planter Tinirau Tamarua (right) warns shortages will worsen. “If there is a lot of taro, the prices will go down and if there isn’t, the prices will rise.”

Local taro planter Tinirau Tamarua, who recently retired from Ministry of Agriculture, warns that the loss of planters and produce could get worse with water and land issues.

“Prices of taro usually depend on the market. If there is a lot of taro, the prices will go down and if there isn’t, the prices will rise,” Tamarua said.

Tamarua said swamp taro has got a higher price which can cost $120-$150 for a 20kg sack. He said that irrigated taro plantations is easier to work and can produce more taro then swamp plantations.

“It takes 9 months from planting to harvesting.”

Tamarua said he is worried with the ongoing Te Mato Vai project that government will soon begin metering and charging for water used for commercial purposes.

He said this will greatly effect irrigated taro operation and paying for the water might mean the price of taro will go up.

Tamarua also said growing other fresh produce is hard with mynah birds, chickens and insects attacking the crops.

“The problem with root crops like taro is the pigs that come and dig it up.”

He also said the biggest problem for agriculture here is that people are building on good soil.”

Tamarua said people are using their land to build houses rather than plantations.

Secretary of Agriculture Temarama Anguna-Kamana says the Cooks once grew all or most of the crops they needed. Now grower numbers had declined as tourism created greater demand.

At Careers Day today, her ministry is launching three colourful booklets to encourage young people into horticulture: one on growing citrus, one on pawpaw, and one on vegetables.