There is growing demand for local taro in New Zealand and more growers are needed to increase the volume of the produce which is airfreighted out once a month.
grower Tereapii (Sabu) Matapo, who is well known in the farming sector, is
visiting the island to help convince local farmers to grow taro for export with
the new company, Tatanu Taro Ltd.
Matapo is encouraging
people to plant more taro and has held meetings with up to 50 full time and
part time growers to explain the market of the produce in New Zealand.
“My focus is on
the growers,” said Matapo. “Number one as a grower is, we have to feed
ourselves first before we look at other options like export.”
“The message I
want to get across and for the growers to really take into consideration and
ask themselves is – How am I going to benefit from sending my taro overseas?
“The growers have
to really understand what’s involved so I wanted them to come and listen to
know what is wanted or expected.”
Taro harvested to be exported to New Zealand. 22090606
Matapo is well aware of the distrust and lack of confidence many growers have
when it comes to the export of their taro.
However, he is
quietly optimistic that by listening to the marketing proposals more growers
will be convinced to export with Tatanu Ltd.
planting full time after leaving school in 1972 with his father Matapo (Jr)
Matapo until he passed away in the early 80s. The younger Matapo carried on
growing commercially up until 2015, before moving to New Zealand.
Back in the
1996-97, the then Ministry of Agriculture encouraged people to grow taro
because of a virus that was occurring at the time in Samoa, Fiji and Hawaii,
“So we were
encouraged to grow taro, and at the time I was suffering from using weed killer
spray, so I took that option to grow taro full time – nothing else.”
He worked out the
cost production – how much it would cost to produce one kilo of taro and
gathered more information to see if it really was worth doing it.
According to Matapo,
growers sometimes don’t work out their cost production – “maybe sometimes they
don’t want to know their losses because once they know they’ll give up”.
“I know this from
my past experiences and I’d like to share my knowledge.”
Matapo also shared
it usually “takes about eight months” for the popular starchy root crop to be
“We love our taro
and we know the taste of the varieties, these days the dry land taro is grown
with irrigation so now the pai taro (swamp) tastes similar.
“Exporting taro is
good for people who want to earn money from their hard work growing good
quality taro to earn money for their families and livelihoods.
“I’m so proud to
be here talking to my own colleagues…I’ve done it myself for long enough.”
Matapo and Jimmy
Tamaiva (formerly of Prince Taro) now have the newly-elected Murienua MP Teariki
Heather on board to facilitate the export of taro at this end – peeled, packed
and ready to be airfreighted.
A meeting will be
held next Tuesday at T&M Heather to inform and update the taro growers of
their new export company. The next consignment of taro will leave Rarotonga for
Auckland later this month.