Poor soil and labour shortage in Niue hamper vanilla industry
Poor soil and labour shortage in Niue hamper developments in vanilla industry.
Vanilla growers in Niue say poor soil conditions and a labour shortage are hampering efforts to develop the industry.
There is high interest in vanilla products from Niue with growers saying they cannot produce enough beans to satisfy the demand.
Beverley Tse was on the island for the annual National Show Day and Business Expo and filed this report.
NONGA BRAY: I do everything myself from the ground up, to the market. I have been doing vanilla since 1999 and I knew nothing about growing vanilla. It was just a lot of hit and miss, a lot of mistakes but I learnt from those.
Nonga Bray produces a top-quality vanilla that is sold in Australia and Austria. She says vanilla growers in Niue have faced many challenges including Cyclone Heta which devastated crops in 2004.
NONGA BRAY: It's just like somebody went around with a brush-cutter and just chopped them all up and scattered everywhere. And that took about another three years before I can pollinate, before they produce flowers.
Nonga Bray says when she first began, there were about 200 growers but due to poor soil conditions and a labour shortage, only a handful remain. Patricia Hunter sells organic vanilla products such as vanilla infused coconut oil, but she says her production is too small and it is too costly for her to export.
NONGA BRAY: There is a challenge here that because the whole population and commerce is very small and the cost of bringing in all your packaging and other items, it makes it too expensive to actually export small quantities.
The Business Development Manager for the Chamber of Commerce, Felicity Bollen, says vanilla farming is labour-intensive and says current growers have struggled to find people who are willing to get involved.
FELICITY BOLLEN: We have got a number of government schemes here to support subsidised workers. That's for Niuean workers into work. So we'll be looking into that and how we can support the sector. We're working with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries around the vanilla growers and we're going to be having a meeting with them very shortly to hear what their issues are and sort of come up with a joint strategic approach to what we can do.
When asked about the potential to create a seasonal worker scheme for the vanilla industry, the Premier of Niue, Toke Talagi, said he is cautious of employing people from overseas and creating unemployment for locals.
TOKE TALAGI: There's a delicate balance between getting labour in, and sometimes cheap labour, verses making sure that we are employ people who are here. And we're taking a very careful analysis of what we're trying to do with respect to that. And then ensuring that we continue to build a sustainable labour market for our people here.
While Nonga Bray and Patricia Hunter say they would appreciate help from casual workers, they are content with being one-woman operations for now.
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