The project for Tonga to buy crops and other products from locals and export them to New Zealand will begin in February 2018, said Labour and Commerce CEO Edgar Cocker.
The Ministry has secured about $1.5 million pa’anga to start the project with, he said.
As Kaniva News reported in April 2017, a deal for Tonga to send food, fish and handicrafts direct to New Zealand suppliers was struck at the time after a team of government officials from Tonga met with J & P Turner Ltd, the parent company of importer Fresh Direct Ltd and other supplier officials in Auckland.
“I already have the money. But we will begin by buying and exporting only yams, arum, cassava, taros and water melons,” Cocker said.
The project will start in ‘Eua because it already has a multi-purpose pack house funded by the Australian government.
New pack houses
Cocker gave Kaniva News copy of a conceptual design of a new pack house the Ministry planned to build in Vava’u, Lapaha and Vainī.
It will follow with two more new pack houses planned to be built in Houma and Hihifo in Tongatapu.
Cocker thanked the Ministry’s former CEO Kulufeinga ‘Anisi Bloomfield as he was the one who initiated the project.
“I am happy to do this as I did it before with FIMCO the exporting of Tongan food and products overseas before I left the company,” Cocker said.
Jeff Turner from J & P Turner Ltd told Kaniva News in May 2016 the company had had discussions regarding the receiving and distribution of Tongan produce.
“We have a long and deep connection with Tonga and are certainly keen to be doing all we can to help with Tonga economy which in turn helps the individual growers and farmers in Tonga,” Jeff Turner said.
It is understood the company was waiting for further developments in Tonga.
Turners, New Zealand’s biggest food and nutritional supplier, will sell Tongan produce and products to their New Zealand markets.
Other New Zealand suppliers also agreed to receive and sell Tongan body tuitui oil and handicrafts.
Cocker said the Ministry was looking for more New Zealand suppliers.