Talo exporter Havaka Niue Ltd has responded to the concerns from some local growers that they had not been paid for the last consignment of talo to New Zealand several months ago.
Brad Ikinepule told BCN News that he takes full responsibility for what happened and that he is doing everything he can to pay what is owed to the growers. He explained what happened that landed him and his business in a situation where they are left with a surplus supply of frozen talo Niue in a saturated market.
He said that the Niue government’s fortnightly export of talo with personal consignments and through competition with Shop Exports was a contributing factor to the situation they find themselves in.
“We are struggling but we knew that once the government went into partnership with Shop Exports, that it was gonna slow the sales down. So in my efforts to try and keep everybody happy, was to look for a bigger market because Niue is not that big.
So I approached the Samoan market and so they decided that they were going to help take some of the taros because. To be honest the Niuean buyers in NZ had slowed down somewhat but I had anticipated that eventually it would slow down, but not to that extent.
So as much as I tried to say that Shop Exports and DAFF hadn’t had an impact on Havaka Niue Ltd, it has unfortunately so in my efforts to help look for a bigger market, I found the Samoan buyers and they were good enough to take the taros this time around. Unfortunately, it all depends on how much they were selling so right now, they are struggling to sell the Niue taro.
BCN News also reached out to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries this morning, but they have yet to respond.
Brad Ikinepule says that he accepts full responsibility for the situation they find themselves in because he accepted more talo than what they planned because he could not turn people away when they brought their talo to be exported. He said it was a situation that created problems for his business because they were accepting talo to help the local growers, knowing that the talo may not be sold for a while yet.
Ikinepule said that it is his promise to the growers still owed money by his business Havaka Niue Ltd, that he will pay them.
“My message to the growers and it’s a promise, that however long, maybe you know…I will ..all the farmers, all the growers will be paid. I realize and I appreciate the time that it has taken, but listen if I had the money I will gladly pay all the growers”.
Havaka Niue is one of two new talo exporters that started up business during the pandemic to help local growers generate some extra income with the downturn in the tourism sector.
BCN News reached out to Moui Growers based in Melbourne Australia but they have not responded.
It’s understood that some of the local growers are owed money from both taro exporters.
One of the growers told BCN News that they are some of the first suppliers to Havaka Niue and to Moui and they are still waiting for the Exporters to pay them for their last consignment.
Brad Ikinepule says that this is a very unfortunate situation and he feels for the growers but he is doing all he can to make sure that the growers who supplied Havaka Niue will be paid, even asking for assistance from the government.
“It’s not through a lack of trying, I’ve exhausted everything I have, including going to the government to seek assistance as far as this consignment is concerned. It’s only for this consignment and I’ve done that. It’s just a waiting game now, unfortunately.
I’ve presented everything from anything to the sales from previous containers to the current situation that Havaka Niue finds situation. It’s an unfortunate situation and I feel for the growers”.
When asked if paying $5 per kilo from the growers in a pandemic economy was an ambitious decision, Brad said that it is very hard work growing talo, and paying $5 per kilo is worth it.
Brad Ikinepule said that Havaka Niue Ltd has contributed more than $400 thousand dollars to the local economy since it started two years ago and he is happy to help the local growers, but going forward Havaka Niue will streamline its business model and will be using their own talo and a few selected growers.