When it comes to the cocoa industry, the owners of Savai’i Koko, Tupa’i Sale’imoa and his wife Rosie Vaai have big plans.
From humble beginnings in Savai’i, they are expanding their operations to Upolu in a bid to get more farmers interested in developing the crop.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, Tupa’i said their goal is to remind Samoa that cocoa is a revenue–earning crop and when it is developed well, it is potentially a very lucrative market. A market that should be consolidated.
Tupa’i and Rosie know how successful it can be. Their company has struck a deal with world famous brands so that their cocoa is now used to manufacture top selling chocolates like Whittakers.
“We have the partnership with Whittakers and for three years now we have been exporting cocoa to New Zealand to Whittakers to produce the chocolate,” he said.
“For three years we’ve been dealing solely out of Savai’i and we have a lot of projects going on in Savai’i but we starting to expand as the market is starting to consolidate a little.”
“What we are trying to do is to conduct more awareness for the cocoas because for a lot of families, the standard of the cocoa is not good.”
“Ever since we’ve expanded out we just realize there’s a lot of cocoa here in Samoa and so we want to make them feel that they have a source of income with cocoa.”
“At the moment the people only turn to the plant when it’s fruiting and because we have a big farm and so we came to Apia and looked around and I saw that many of the farms are being neglected.”
Tupa’i went on to say that cocoa and coconut is the traditional cash drop of Samoa.
“I can see that the cocoa is not fruiting to the level it’s suppose to be and simply because the people are not looking after it properly,” he said.
“So we’ve expanded out in Savai’i instead of just our district and so it’s good in Savaii and now we have expanded to Apia.”
“We are starting to get a little bit of traction but because there’s a big demand of the local market therefore we are trying to convince the people to think ahead, but not just for now but look to the future.”
“The plant is not an easy plant to grow as it takes a lot of time and so what we are trying to do is to reintroduce the mindset of people towards cocoa as a source of income.”
“Having come to Apia we’ve seen a lot even though it’s not the same uptake like Savai’i but we are now using a different method.”
“In the old days people just comes in with their dry cocoa and we measure it and that’s it but now we are also bringing in the pod as well and at the moment we are relatively buying it at a smaller margin for the time being.”
“But we are trying to re-introduce to people that there is a source of income that they can get from this and as we can see the limited job opportunities we need to get back to the land.”
“We are trying to get more exposure in Upolu and we started from Leulumoega, Fasitoo, Faleasi’u, Leauvaa, Tuana’i and Afega as well as the other side like Salani Falealili and so forth.”
“However, we are still looking for partners here in Apia the likeminded people who not only need financial help but also want to make their farm even better and up to the standard that it’s suppose to be.”
Moreover, Tupa’i said one of the biggest challenges is that most of the people have a small farm but they try to get more money.
“The biggest challenges that we face is because many of the people have 4 to 5 plants of cocoa and they try to get as much money as they can,” Tupa’i said.
“But they don’t try to plant more and make their plantation bigger so they can get more money instead of trying to get more money with the little plants they have so what we are trying to do is to teach our farmers to look at the long term.
“At the moment we are buying with the pods and at a different prices but it depends on the size of the pods and from the district of Asau it’s predominantly cocoa Samoa but when we came to Apia we see a mixture of all cocoas.”
He carried on saying that the reason why they now buy it with the pods it’s because they are trying to maintain the quality of the cocoa.
“There is a certain method that is demanded by the chocolate factory that the cocoa should be for instance it has to be fermented for 7 days, and then sundry it and it usually takes up to 10 days,” said Tupa’i.
“We have to have that exact and so when people bring in the cocoa it was either fermented for 3 days and the rest they don’t and some people want quick money and then they don’t go through the process that we have already told them and we have ways and methods to tested it to know if these cocoas were done the right way.”
“That’s why we decided to bring it with the pods so that we can do it ourselves and we can meet the standards of the cocoa that is demanded by the chocolate factory.”
“Right now we are still looking for more supplies and at the moment we advertised through the television as well as our facebook page and any way we can.”
“We need more suppliers and our operation here in Upolu have just started about three weeks to a month now so we are still in need of more suppliers as I have to meet 6 containers this year hence why we are desperate of more suppliers.”
“We are out and about and if anyone who has a cocoa farm please contact us and we will pick up from you.” Contact Rosie Vaai on 760-9090 or 58140 in Savaii.