Minister: Food remains an integral part of the Samoan culture


Madam Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General of FAO,

Mr. Jong-Jin Kim, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of the FAO Office for Asia and the Pacific,

Your Excellencies – Ministerial colleagues,

Distinguished FAO colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be invited to say a few words on behalf of my Government and Country, on the launch of the Green Development of Special Agricultural Products, One Country One Priority Product for our Asia and the Pacific region.

Food remains an integral part of the Samoan culture with ties to our land and ocean.

However, increased dependence on imported processed foods fueled by changing dietary habits, vulnerability to climate change, rising burden of Non-Communicable Diseases, and inherent limitations of a small island economy, pose challenges in ensuring our food security and nutrition which can cater to our growing population and future generations.

We are also living in unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has created a “new normal” in our lives and has resulted in multiple challenges such as health, economic, social, and political, all overpowering us at the same time.

The COVID-19 mitigation has amplified many of these challenges resulting in further reduction in our food and income securities, due to financial pressures and regular disruptions in the food supply chains. Samoa is now facing the health-related challenges of the community spread of the virus, in addition to the social and economic impacts that are being felt across our small island country.

Samoa has recently launched its five-year national development plan called the “Pathway for the Development of Samoa 2022-2026”, and one of our plan’s key priority strategies is the realization of vibrant and sustainable agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture sector, which will create employment, improve our food and nutrition security, and reduce our reliance on food imports.

Also, with the support from the FAO and other UN Agencies, Samoa has completed it’s National Food Systems Pathway 2030 which paves the way, to transform our food systems for a resilient and healthy Samoa, and also helps us achieve the relevant goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Given the severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our other key economic sector, our tourism industry, we are looking at increasing our agriculture and fisheries exports for new foreign exchange earnings, and food import substitution, in addition to our drive to be food and nutrition secured.

This will include the promotion and upgrading of our current farming practices to mechanized farming, to assist our less resourceful farmers with land preparation activities that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Further, due to the expected severe long-term impacts of climate change and COVID-19, we have established a District Development Fund scheme, to develop our rural communities and increase our agricultural and fisheries productions, maintain our food and nutrition security, and increase our import substitution and export efforts.

As part of our Government’s efforts to support these economic developments, we are in the process of establishing our Import and Export Authority to realize our vision of “increased exports, value addition, and import substitution.”

Now, most of our agricultural production for our food and nutrition security,import-substitution, and export efforts for new foreign exchange earnings include horticultural crops, mainly fruits and vegetables, and cash crops, mainly taro and other root crops, kava, products from our cocoa and coconut resources, such as chocolate, cocoa paste, and our popular Koko Samoa, organic virgin and copra oils, and coconut cream, and products from our taro and breadfruit resources, such as taro and breadfruit chips, and breadfruit flour.

These locally produced and processed agricultural products target mainly our Samoan communities and other Pacific islanders living abroad, although some are also popular with our European consumers.  Further, some of these crops and derived products have unique qualities and special characteristics associated with Samoa, our farming practices, and our cultural heritage.

And so, I commend FAO for theGreen Development of Special Agricultural Products, or One Country One Priority Product initiative, to which we will direct some policy attention, and share good practices on the nutritional and health benefits of consumption of a few of them, their contribution to the promotion of diversified, balanced and healthy diets and lifestyles, and reducing loss and waste of locally grown foods.

We are implementing numerous development projects in the agriculture space with financial and technical support from our development partners, including FAO, to support our farmers and fishers increase their production and productivity through the application of various production technologies and digital initiatives, and addressing the vulnerabilities of agriculture, food security, and nutrition, due to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

All these projects, aim to support our farmers, fishers, and other key players in our food value chains, transform our food systems, support food production, and healthier diets, and increase our import substitution and export efforts.

We look forward to developing a new project, under the first phase of this initiative, in collaboration with FAO and Kastom Gaden Association, focusing on one or two priority products that we will promote as “Samoa Made” products.

We also look forward to the second phase involving the green development of livestock, aquaculture, and fishery special agricultural products, as we have a few products unique to Samoa and significant to our livelihoods, and cultural heritage.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge FAO for this great One Country One Priority Product initiative, and also the FAO Sub-Regional Office for the Pacific, for your ongoing financial and technical support for our Pacific island countries.

I wish you Madam Deputy Director-General, and Assistant Director-General of FAO, your Excellencies my Ministerial Colleagues, FAO staff, and all participants, God’s blessings.  May His peace which passes all understanding, keeps your hearts and minds, in His knowledge and love, and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thank you for your attention!