True Pacific establishes visits with producer partners

Frances meeting with Lapita Cafe VanuatuWith around twenty-five enterprise partners spread right across the Pacific, getting to know them all and learn what their specific needs are is a hard task to accomplish, says True Pacific Project Manager Frances Hartnell.

 “One key to the success of True Pacific is strong relationships, to ensure the brand delivers in priority areas for businesses” she explains. “We want to see the businesses in their context and understand how their business is progressing..

“Spending time to develop an in-depth understanding of a business ensures communication can flow easily,” Frances adds. “And PCF keeps up-to-date with local operating conditions including interest rate levels and freight costs. I’ve been given a detailed perspective and I’m amazed at the level of innovation. From where businesses are, they’re constantly trying to create more value.”

During this round of trips, Frances visited three countries: Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

“My understanding of what our partners value from True Pacific, and how they experience positive associations with the brand, was enhanced. There are clear opportunities to expand and grow their products in the market.”

Friend Fiji.Frances says that the common benefits experienced by True Pacific businesses were that their products were seen as “authentic” and from the region. Others noted the association with a consistent high quality added value, in addition to market support aspects of the  programme. True Pacific provides useful tools in these areas.

“Basically, the Pacific has a lot to offer and it is part of a dynamic export market. It’s a way to develop their communities, economically and socially, and to build resources.

 “Businesses essentially need to make money, start to end, so I’m here to increase the value and supply of their exports. It’s about giving them intelligence and advice in what they need to do to achieve more, and then working with them to see it through.”

Frances says that her role is about marketing, promotion and facilitation.

“They’re excellent products. It’s about the end consumer being aware of them and wanting them, which drives the brand. Then hopefully our businesses increase their sales and exports which helps the countries and the Pacific region.”

In Samoa, Frances visited Apia Bottling, which creates the fiery Hot Samoan Boys chilli sauce, and met with the operators of CCK, who manufacture noni products which is also home to Samoa’s Tropical Rainforest Honey.

In Vanuatu, she visited Vanuatu Direct, a grower that supplies domestically, and Lapita Café, which produces premium gluten-free flour made from tapioca (cassava). The Café is renowned throughout the republic and was featured in the award-winning Me’a Kai South Pacific cookbook.

Red Papaya Nursery Nature's Way FijiFrances was pleasantly surprised when she was offered Lapita Café’s breadfruit and cassava chips on her flight into Vanuatu. She would like to see other regional airlines do the same with their local True Pacific products. “It’s a good way of showing off what the country has,” she says.

Visiting Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea were particular highlights for Frances. Prior to True Pacific, her previous trips to the Pacific were centered in Polynesia (she is of Cook Islands descent): a trip to Samoa as a young adult, and some time spent in the Cooks.

“I thought Port Moresby looked a lot like Wellington, because it’s high and has a lot of hills surrounding its harbour. PNG has got huge potential; it has resources aplenty. ”

During her three days in the growing Melanesian powerhouse, Frances called on Micky Puritau of Paradise Spices, which largely concentrates on premium vanilla beans and extract but also sells other spices like turmeric and cumin. She also flew to Mount Hagen to visit the Banz Kofi plantation.

Mount Hagen is the third largest urban area in Papua New Guinea with around 40,000 residents, and is the regional capital of the Western Highlands Province. Located in the large and fertile Wahgi Valley, it sits 1,700 metres above sea level, has year-round average high temperatures in the high-20s, and rains two out of three days. These factors make it an ideal location for premium coffee cultivation.

Meeting with enterpises in SamoaArabica coffee plants have been cultivated by local villagers since the 1950s, and are an important source of income. Originally from Queensland, Patrick Killoran first travelled there in the 1970s to help a friend and enjoyed the work so much he stayed, establishing Banz Kofi in the early 1990s.

He works with villagers from across the province. They cultivate beans that are free from chemicals and sprays and help him to export green beans and roasted coffee to a number of countries.

Frances spent a day at Banz observing all parts of the business, from the weigh station where villages bring the raw beans – they look like cherries, Frances explains – through to the water system that cleanses them, the large mats that are used for drying them, and then into the main office in Mount Hagen where the roasters are, and where the product is packaged and distributed.

Located close to the Mount Hagen airport, Banz is also becoming a local hub. A café and shop, with food Frances describes as “exquisite,” is attracting increasing numbers of people to hold meetings there. Coffee plantation tours are also being developed.

“Patrick’s developing his whole area and making it into a tourist centre. There are tropical birds, the café comes right out by a waterfall…he’s trying to make it a place for people to come and spend some time.”

And, as Frances discovered, Banz is also community-focused beyond supplying an important source of income for local growers.

Friend Fiji Workers“Banz employs mainly women, so they’ve established a community project where a nurse comes in and provides social and health information and discussion. They also invest in providing training and education for the workers, so they are involved in up-skilling.”

This ethos fits perfectly within the broader aims of True Pacific: development through economic growth.

“I think that the True Pacific brand has application right across the region.

“Our brand continues to strengthen as more people share it with their New Zealand and international families and communities. It then becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, growing and feeding on itself.”