From Vavau with love

Heilala Vanilla makes its mark in export vanilla markets

A PIECE of the friendly Kingdom of Tonga in a bottle is what Heilala Vanilla is proving to be like for its customers abroad.

So much so that the boutique vanilla processing company based in Vava’u is opening up new export markets in the United States and Japan, in addition to its traditional market of New Zealand.

At the same time, and closer to home, Heilala Vanilla is causing a revival of sorts for one time vanilla growers in Vava’u, where the company base is, as well as in the small outlying islands of the Vava’u group. The numbers tell the story.

From a 46kg export of dried vanilla in 2005, Heilala Vanilla processed four tonnes in 2013.

Since the ratio is 1 dried vanilla in 5 green beans, this would mean that local growers who sold their 20 tonnes of green beans to John Ross, owner of Heilala Vanilla would have earned a total of TOP$500,000 (USD218, 914).

For rural based growers and their families who lead a largely subsistence existence, cash in their hands through crops like vanilla are heaven sent.

That is exactly what the TRIP project sets out to do. Shortened for Tonga Rural Innovation Project, this programme is financed by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the Government of Tonga.

Through TRIP, the target is to involve 60 rural based communities in the Kingdom through the provision of seed money to support agriculture and rural businesses. SEG, Supplemental Equity Grants, was born as a result of TRIP.

Through SEG, entrepreneurs like Ross of Heilala Vanilla could obtain a bank loan for his business.

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