Local potatoes demonstrate new agricultural opportunities

Farmers in Tanna and Erromango are busy harvesting this year’s crop of potatoes.

Growers have been managing their crops for just over three months, and are now ready to move their premium, organic product to market. Dynamic Supply Company has quickly jumped on board, ready to take as much product as possible. These potatoes have already gained an exceptional reputation as a quality product that outweighs the imported alternative.

Through the coordination of the Department of Industry and the Vanuatu Cooperative Business Network, farmers have been able to link in and sell all of their potatoes directly to Dynamic. This offers a range of benefits to many different stakeholders. For Dynamic, it provides an opportunity to substitute imported produce for locally grown goods. It also makes it easier for Dynamic’s customers, the hotels, resorts, restaurants and cafes of Vanuatu to access quality, locally grown produce to showcase on their menus. Equally for growers, having a reliable, consistent market for their goods helps to maximise profits and encourages efforts to increase production.

Going forward, Dynamic hopes to see maximised import substitution for produce that can be grown in Vanuatu. This would dramatically reduce the volume of imports from large manufactures overseas, and pave new opportunities for growers across Vanuatu. Project Local was established with the support of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to establish a supply chain that would increase economic opportunities for Ni-Vanuatu growers. In the first year of implementation, Dynamic has engaged a number of supplier groups to work with farmers across SHFEA and TAFEA provinces. Information regarding volumes, quality and variety have been passed through these groups, helping growers to align with the market requirements.

One of the key challenges for growers is to adjust their planning cycles and extend the seasons of their crops. Potatoes are the perfect example and demonstrate a great opportunity to increase domestic production. Currently, all seed is planted around the same time, and therefore all crops will be harvested within the space of a month. For Dynamic, this means that imported potatoes are still required for the other 11 months of the year. While seasonality will make it impossible to enable potato production across the full year, there is considerable opportunity to lengthen the window of supply and provide a more consistent volume of local potatoes across a number of months. With improved planning and coordination, growers can increase the overall volumes they can sell, and maximise revenue across the year. As quoted by Jimmy Rantes, Director of the Department of Industry, “mani hemi stap long graon.”

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