28 Oct 2014

Friction in American Samoa over farming programme

3:29 pm on 28 October 2014

American Samoan farmers have repeated their fears to the Governor that foreign farmers are buying up land and cashing in on government programmes to the detriment of locals.

More than 100 farmers met Lolo Matalasi Moliga to complain that the 17-million US dollar budget for the School Lunch Programme is not reaching locals.

Galumalemana Bill Satele says he thinks about half of the budget is benefitting foreign farm owners.

But the Director of Agriculture, Lealao Mel Purcell, says many Samoans lease their land to Asian developers, who run plantations, and while Samoans grow staple crops, such as taro and banana, the foreign famers grow a greater range of vegetables - the kind that the School Lunch Program needs.

According to data provided by the Director of Education, Vaitinasa Dr Salu Hunkin Finau, 194 farmers are registered to sell produce to the School Lunch Programme, and 40 of them are Asian farmers.

She says the programme is aimed at buying local produce but farmers are not producing enough.