Samoa farmers celebrate ripe bananas shipment to NZ

Farmers in Samoa are celebrating sending the first shipment of ripe bananas to New Zealand in over 50 years.

Samoa's agriculture minister Lopao'o Natanielu Mu'a is the driving force behind the scheme in which farmers grow Jewish bananas introduced from South Africa.

Lopao'o initially came under fire for coaxing big commercial farmers to spearhead the scheme which has now resulted in 500 cartons of bananas being sent to New Zealand.

The Samoa Observer reports the President of the Banana Farmers Association, Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau saying he hoped the scheme continues to bear fruit as it will benefit the country as a whole.

He said he and other farmers plan to be in New Zealand when the shipment arrives next week.

A New Zealand distributor, Fresh Direct will handle the distribution once the bananas clear customs and quarantine.

The New Zealand market for ripe bananas is valued at over $US160 million.

Manager of the biggest commercial farming operations Johanna Coyle of Ah Liki Farms said shipments need to leave weekly to make a dent in the market and make it feasible for the farmers.

"All the farmers, as a whole need to justify getting a weekly departure to New Zealand by putting up enough produce," she said.