The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has responded to the complaints by one talo exporter about the involvement of the government department in the export of talo on Air NZ.
In a statement to BCN news, the department says that they are only involved in part of the process to send private talo consignment to families in New Zealand.
The department says this will help address the issue under-utilized freight space of Air NZ with flights returning to NZ empty. The department believes that this is a win-win situation for all involved in the entity to ensure the viability of the fortnightly Air NZ flight.
Two weeks ago, talo exporter Brad Etuata questioned the involvement of a government department in talo exports when there are talo export businesses like his who will likely be affected by this new air freight arrangement.
On social media, Mr. Etuata says that his venture contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the pockets of local growers last year. BCN news is aware of one grower earning $3,000 for his talo.
Mr. Etuata’s talo export business pays the growers $100 for one sack of talo and he is concerned that the growers are losing out with this government driven program of exporting via air freight. “It will be the growers who will suffer. Im ok, I don’t have to do this but I only did it to help the growers on the island. I sell the talos at $190 each sack in NZ. $100 dollars staying here on the island”.
He says that this is money lost to the local Niue economy and may impact the supply chain for their next large shipment of taro due in March/April.
DAFF says that they are not interfering with any private enterprise exporting talos to market, as they are only facilitating the export of peoples’ taros sent to their families in NZ. The families in Niue pay for the air freight costs of $2.50 per kg.
Mr. Etuata told BCN News that the talo export business is not making him money because of the high costs at the border, including customs clearance, MPI and transport and for each sack of talo he sells he is left with about $18 but he is doing this for the growers on the island.
A total of 1,400 kg of talo was air freighted to New Zealand two weeks ago in 70 twenty kilo gram bins.
Since then, the government department has expanded the export commodities to include coconuts and cassava on the flight today. This morning BCN news cameras were at the airport where the line at check in stretched the length of the airport arrival area with talo exports bound for families in New Zealand.
DAFF has also expressed that they willing to work with current Exporters if they want to use this opportunity through Air NZ to send talos to NZ markets.
The department says that their experience and familiarity with the process over the years provides the technical support for families wanting to send their talo to families. They are also responsible for the inspection and wrapping of boxes at the airport.