“It’s not something we just do last minute,” said CITC food group manager Jason Burgess.
“And don’t forget, it’s not just three weeks of this actually happening, it’s almost a two-month event by the time the outer islands go back as well.
“It’s a big event, and it stretches out to more than just when the celebrations are on.”
Prime Foods general manager Dan Forsyth also emphasised the effect the presence of the pa enua on Rarotonga has on their approach to stock inventory for the Te Maeva Nui period, adding that the free freight granted to outer islanders by the government has created a good opportunity for them to stock up for the trip home.
“It’s a good opportunity for the outer islands to not have to pay for freight,” said Forsyth.
“A lot of them are quite isolated and they normally have to pay higher freight costs, especially on air freight.
“It’s hard for them to get any fresh produce over unless it’s air freighted, so I think especially when they go back they’ll take quite a lot of perishable goods with them – that’s your fruit, your vegetables, your dairy products.”
Forsyth also said that as Prime Foods specialises in meat, they mainly focus on “getting meat in a lot earlier and procuring more stock”.
That wasn’t always so simple however, he added.
“Our biggest problem has been getting it on the boat, because everyone’s trying to get stock here,” said Forsyth. “We’ve had two containers bumped off, and quite a few others are in the same situation.”
CITC too has also run into supply and transport troubles due to the large volumes involved, says Burgess.
“Across the board we load up as best we can but obviously, like everyone else, there’s only a certain amount of capacity you can use – we simply don’t have the room to put everything on, all at once,” he said.
“Obviously we don’t want to miss out, and the people that are here, they don’t want to miss out and not be able to get things as well.”
Burgess said with another boat scheduled to arrive yesterday, he was “fairly comfortable” with CITC’s food supply situation at the moment.
“We’ve got a fair bit of stuff on there to carry us through, because that next two weeks is the more crucial part anyway – and then we’ve got the peak tourism period that we’re in the middle of as well, so that affects everything. It’s busy!
“Once the celebrations are over, and when the vessels are organised to go back to the outer islands, the planes and whatnot, then the next rush kind of happens, of the outer islanders loading up with stuff to take back with them. So it’s kind of like two events at the end of the day – because they go back pretty heavy.”