19 Nov 2013

Samoan businesses launch products and talk shop at NZ fair

5:18 pm on 19 November 2013

Samoa is making a push to have more of its products on New Zealand shelves, as it seeks to redress an imbalance in imports and exports to and from the country.

The Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters held the 'Gaosia I Samoa' New Zealand Trade Show at the Mangere Arts Centre last week, with small businesses showing their wares.

Alex Perrottet went along.

Guests were welcomed with kava and prayers to launch the business fair in the heart of South Auckland. Stalls selling coconut cream, taro, taro chips, beer, bottled water, chilli sauce and Samoan sandals coaxed the public with give-aways while they watched a fashion parade with brands soon to be launched in New Zealand. The Samoa Beverage Company made a splash, and General Manager Alex Brunt says he plans to bring out two new beers to compete with the well-known and tasted Vailima.

"ALEX BRUNT: I guess it's the first time we've branched out into New Zealand, it's definitely a target market and not just the Samoan community but nation-wide. I certainly believe we have a product that will be appreciated by a cross-section of people, a cross-section of the community and we hope to bring a little piece of Samoa to New Zealand."

Vailima had its newest Vailima Pure to give away as well, but getting bottled beer to New Zealand is much easier than a box of taro. The Samoan Trade Commissioner to New Zealand, Fonoti Dr Lafitai Fuatai, says there are delays when shipments arrive.

FONOTO LAFITAI FUATAI: So every time a taro container comes to New Zealand it has to be fumigated and you know, a six-sided inspection is what is carried out by math, and that takes a lot of time and that will have an impact on the shelf-life. So that's the main issue we are trying to deal with now.

Fonoti says he is aiming to establish a well-resourced quarantine office in Samoa and pre-clear shipments from there to enable more speedy passage on arrival at New Zealand ports. The organiser of the event and Vice President of SAME, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, says communication is key.

TAGALOA EDDIE WILSON: It's just a matter of clear communication and establishment of what is required. Our exporters are pretty internationally certified and know what to do if they're told, so as long as there is that mutual understanding and acceptance, I am sure we can overcome any issues of quarantine.

Tagaloa says Samoa exports 20 percent of its produce to New Zealand, but he says New Zealand exports almost 20 times the amount back to Samoa, and there needs to be more balance. The Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo, said he is aiming at setting up a new business council to improve the trade relationship between the two countries.

FONOTOE NUAFESILI PIERRE LAUOFO: I feel there is a lot of merit in that and I am seriously to that. Right now I see a lot of positive reaction from the business people here in Auckland and especially Samoans who are involved in business so I think I'm going to accord it my first priority and I would like to see it established it as soon as possible.

The Auckland Mayor Len Brown promised greater efforts from New Zealand's side of the bargain.

LEN BROWN: As a council we're looking to really affirm our close relationships with the Samoan community and the wider Pacific community with the Pacific People's Advisory Panel. A little bit more work to do there to make sure we get the right structure but I am very very hopeful we'll be able to get that up and running within the next month or two.

Len Brown said almost 10 percent of Auckland's are Samoan and the second-most spoken language in New Zealand is Samoan, and that was more cause to make business easier.