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Exchange Visit - Samoa Cacao Export Improvement Programme

Phase II of the Samoan Cocoa Export Improvement Programme, which started seven years ago, is near completion. An exchange visit from Samoa to New Zealand was an excellent finale of the youth training component of the programme.

In the last two years, 36 youth have completed entrepreneurial horticulture courses facilitated by Wintec Te Pūkenga despite the numerous challenges. The course had to be postponed several times because of COVID-19 and significantly adjusted given the allocated time and travel ban to Samoa valid until August 2022. Wintec has partnered with the University of South Pacific to guarantee local ensure and ownership.

Initially two trips were planned to New Zealand: a trip of university tutors delivering the course and then a visit of Savai’i cacao growers to New Zealand horticulture and primary industry enterprises. The visit of university tutors, which was meant as a training on food handling and processing, had to be cancelled due to COVID as a result the training was delivered entirely remotely in 2021.

The activity brought to New Zealand two female participants of horticulture course and their tutors. During a week-long visit, the participants visited numerous primary industry businesses producing and processing various horticulture products. 

Raglan Chocolate, which has collaborated with Grow Asia Pacific since 2022 was the first enterprise visited. The group was shown around by the owners Mike Renfree and Simone Downey, who presented them with the whole chocolate-making process from bean to bar and explained what makes good chocolate.


The second business visited in the town of Raglan was Raglan Botanicals, a natural organic aromatherapy and cosmetics company producing small batches of high-quality, eco-friendly aromatherapy and natural skincare products. The group listened to the story of the owner Fabi Henderson with great curiosity. The last stop in Raglan was a local seed bank, which collaborates with community gardeners to grow and store seeds, focusing on heritage varieties.


In Tauranga, the group had a chance to visit Ngai Tukairangi Trust which runs a large kiwifruit orchard. The orchard was started generations ago when the New Zealand government continued confiscating Māori land deemed ‘unused’. The iwi planted kiwifruit vines to cover the land and stop it from being taken. Today, the trust runs one of the most extensive kiwifruit orchards in the country. The group was also guided through Seeka Huka Pak, a processing plant for kiwi fruit sorting, packing, and exporting where many RSE workers from Samoa are employed.


In Hamilton, the group visited Zealong Tea enterprise, the only commercial tea estate in New Zealand, producing 100% organic award-winning tea. The group could see and taste how various methods of drying and roasting can create five different teas, all from the same leaves. One of the tutors has a family plantation and plans to investigate the possibly of growing tea at home. On the tour, the farm showcased the difference in the same camellia plants when they are grown for decorative flowers versus when they are propagated for tea.


The last visited business were small-scale home-based producers, Where Cornflowers Grow, located in Ohaupo, and Pa Hill Produce from Pūkorokoro. Both businesses sell predominantly at farmers markets, which is the most common business model in Samoa. Where Cornflowers Grow is run entirely by a florist Venetta Milne-White. Venetta gave the team some great advice on selling at markets helping to build on the students confidence.


Judi Ashby and her business partner Jean are behind Pa Hill Produce, which produces chutneys, jams, sauces, and peanut butters. Apart from Argentinian peanuts, everything that goes into their products is grown in New Zealand. They started selling solely at markets but now have stock lists around the country. They gave the group excellent advice on how to promote their products and help them stand out in the market.

The exchange visit served as an exceptional opportunity, offering participants fresh perspectives, invaluable knowledge, and inspiring ideas to power their personal development projects or guide them toward potential career pathways.

The exchange visit gave the students guidance and encouragement, how they could build a real business from their learnings at the “Entrepreneurial Horticulture Course”.