Gluten-free breadfruit flour, cocoa, coffee and honey are among bold plans to diversify Cook Islands’ struggling horticulture and apiculture exports.
Local growers will present the plans to a regional farmers’ meeting this week.
Nineteen members of food security network Te Tango Enua have already met to map out areas of concern and plans to boost agriculture production in the country.
Te Tango Enua president Danny Mataroa said they were eyeing the production of gluten-free breadfruit flour for export and local consumption.
Other plans for local retail include growing passionfruit.
But for export to New Zealand, they are developing even more intrepid plans: organic farming systems, cocoa and coffee production, and beekeeping.
“We looked at the value chain and the master plan, identifying the needs, the issues and challenges with farming,” Mataroa said.
“Basically we are trying to come up with a master plan for our growers but because there are so many issues, we thought we’d come up with five for now.”
Te Tango Enua is to present the five plans to the Pacific Islands Farmer Organisations Network, and they will identify which areas they can help with.
“The important thing is we come up with a plan that is practical, achievable, and within the budget allocation of the sponsors.”
Mataroa said scarcity of land was one of the main issues faced by growers in Rarotonga.
Horticultural land, which should be available for replanting kuru, tamanu, miro, noni, bananas and traditional trees, was instead covered with foreign trees. “We need a plan to replace the invasive species with these productive trees.”
In the outer islands, land was not the major concern, Mataroa said – but the labour shortage was the main issue there.
“If government is hiring workers in education, finance, internal affairs, health, and these are all the departments that spend money and never produce any, why can’t they hire workers for agriculture?
“We have backpackers here who wants to work. They can work for three months and we pay them normal Cook Islands rate. But we need the policy to allow that to happen.”