St Helena Online


New home for ‘Tuna on Main’ restaurant – but where?

2onMain has been highly praised by online reviewers
2onMain has been highly praised by online reviewers

The widely-praised 2onMain restaurant in Jamestown is to move to a new home on St Helena – but its location has yet to be revealed.

The restaurant, set up to train Saints in hospitality skills, has to leave its premises in one of Main Street’s finest Georgian buildings to make way for a new hotel.

St Helena Government recently advertised for tenders to convert three buildings near St James’s Church in time for the opening of the island’s first airport, scheduled for early 2016.

The conversion of numbers 1-3 Main Street was decided upon after private schemes stalled, apparently because of uncertainties over whether there will be flights from Europe.

The restaurant – nicknamed “Tuna on Main” by one online reviewer – was opened just in time for Christmas 2013 by hospitality trainer Gillian Scott-Moore. She writes about the impending move on her personal website:

“It is with sadness and regret that the time is creeping towards 2onMain closing its doors.

“The buildings we are occupying are going to be made into a 30-bedroom hotel.  Work is likely to start in June so we are probably going to be out of here some time in May.

“That’s the bad news. The good news is that we will be moving to a great new location (yet to be confirmed), which will be a permanent home to all hospitality up-skilling on St Helena.

“Some of my time has been taken up with some of the planning on this project and looking at how to maximise on the space we will have in our new premises.  All exciting stuff.”

The restaurant has received high praise on the website:

The professionalism with which this restaurant is run belies its status as a training establishment – Elisabeth R, Edinburgh, February 2015

My partner raved about the trio of vegetarian curry and the five mini desserts was excellent. Shame it didn’t promote the local St Helena coffee over the norm – Martin P, February 2015

Click the pic to see trip reviews
Click the pic to see trip reviews

Lovely staff in training with really good well presented meals… almost 5 star – Nanacharms, Johannesburg, October 2014

Very nice dining rooms in a modern style, oak tables and chairs. The serving staff is very pleasant and professional – Fredrick Henry, Sweden, October 2014

Lovely tuna surprise! Lovely ice cream surprise! – Michael T, Nice, France, December 2013

From Gillian Scott-Moore’s web journal: 
A new home for 2onMain; plus island photographs
2onMain opens for business – with pictures

Read reviews here

St Helena shows UK the way with fizzy drinks tax

St Helena appears to be showing Britain the way to tackle obesity, by introducing a sugar tax.

A levy on high-sugar drinks was announced in the island’s budget in the very month that England’s chief medical officer warned that the British government might have to consider such a measure.

But Dame Sally Davies said she hoped it would not be needed in the UK.

St Helena Government (SHG) is introducing the 75p-per-litre excise duty from May.

It is a move that some on the island have long campaigned for, including shop owner Nick Thorpe, who sees the vast scale of imports of sugary foods and drinks.

The island is reported to import nearly a million cans of fizzy drinks per year, for a population of just over 4,000 people.

The island’s incidence of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, is among the highest in the world. The government has warned that the cost of treating the condition has put a massive strain on the island’s health service, as well as damaging the lives of diabetics.

The new budget includes an additional £692,000 for the health service, and more than £1.5 million has been set aside to fund infrastructure improvements to the hospital, including the furnishing of a diagnostic suite.

Colin Owen, the island’s Financial Secretary, said: “The introduction of a new tax on high-sugar drinks and higher-than-inflation increases on tobacco form part of a raft of measures which demonstrate that SHG takes the health of St Helena seriously.”

He also announced the introduction of liquor duty at £3.50 per litre, and a new duty of £1 per litre for drinks with an alcoholic content of 3% or below.

Councillor Ian Rummery pointed out the timeliness of the move in an email to St Helena Online. He wrote:

“I see that a sugar/fat tax is being debated in the UK media with statements from Dame Sally Davies, the Medical Officer, and the BBC World Service Business Matters programme has a week-long special on obesity and discussions on a fat tax.

“While the world talks about it, here on St Helena we have just introduced a tax on sugary carbonated drinks.”

Dame Sally first raised the prospect of a sugar tax in comments to the UK Parliament’s Health Select Committee. She also suggested that sugar might be addictive – though some scientists disagreed.

In his budget speech, Mr Owen said: “On St Helena, over 300,000 litres of carbonated sugar sweetened beverages are imported per year.

“This equates to around 67 litres per year for each person currently on island, each of us drinking around 200 cans a year. Within this, some people will consume very little, while others may consume many more.

“Just to be clear on the figures, we import just under ONE MILLION cans of fizzy soft drinks each year. And each can on average contains over 35 grams of sugar.

“We currently have a very high rate of obesity, and type 2 diabetes. This has a very high cost to the St Helena health service and there is significant evidence to show direct links.

“Every additional regular can-sized, sugar-sweetened drink per day, increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18%.

“A number of studies document a link between fizzy soft drink consumption and higher blood pressure.

“And dental health is negatively influenced by consumption. Studies have shown that consumption nearly doubles the risk of dental cavities in children.”

He added that healthier diet drinks were currently more expensive than high-sugar drinks, especially those from South Africa.

“Research has shown that increasing the price of fizzy soft drinks will lead to a fall in consumption, as consumers switch to alternatives.”

The island budget also included a range of tax increases for alcohol, and a 5% increase in tax on all tobacco goods, taking the cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes to just under £5.

Mr Owen said: “The rate of throat cancer on island is one and half times more than the UK, the highest risk factors for throat cancer being smoking and drinking alcohol to excess. This above-inflation increase supports the health service.”

In his speech to Legislative Council on Friday, 21 March 2014, Mr Owen said:

“Madam Speaker this budget is different. It seeks to support not just economic development, but to support SHG’s top priority, health – and not just the health of individuals but that of the nation.

“I do not believe it’s right anymore to sit on the sidelines. We need to grab every opportunity available to support our health and green objectives, and that includes using the tax system to provide appropriate financial incentives. We need to change our tax policies to address the growing number of concerns around diabetes and cancers.”

He said the budget had been compiled by councillors, not just officials, which had brought fresh ideas.

Killer diabetes puts island under strain, says the Castle
Diabetes cases soar as island struggles with cost of healthcare
My sadness and anger at diabetes crisis, by writer Doreen

Plastic bag tax aims to cut landfill waste

The budget included new taxes of 5p on plastic bags and 1p on styrofoam containers for takeaway foods – both excise taxes, imposed within the island, as opposed to customs duties.

Mr Owen said: “Both products are made from petroleum and are not degradable. St Helena does not have the facilities to dispose of them and they end up in the landfill.

“Roughly 500,000 bags and containers are used per year and this is only likely to increase as tourism grows. Similar policies to reduce use of plastic bags have been very successful in places such as Wales.”

Budget facts

In his budget speech, Mr Owen said:

Prices in island shops rose by only 1.5%, against a forecast of just over 5%. But it was expected to rise during 2014.

The resident population averaged 4,297 people through 2013, and is forecast to reach to nearly 4,500 people in 2014.

More than 360 Saints were working on the airport project and unemployment was at an all-time low, with vacancies in government and the private sector. In total, 550 people were working on the project.

Income tax was set to have raised £3.4 million, some £325k ahead of targets.

Saints are letting out more properties than ever before.

Earnings from customs duties on alcohol and tobacco exceeded targets by £115,000 and £10,000.

The offshore fishing vessel MFV Extractor had been purchased, partly with funds from Enterprise St Helena (ESH) and would soon be leaving Cape Town to fish St Helena’s seamounts.

ESH had assisted in 30 youth training schemes and five public-private partnerships. More than 40 people enrolled as apprentices.

A 30-year planned maintenance programme for government housing began with the rewiring of flats in Jamestown.

Planning permission was granted for 65 homes in Half Tree Hollow, featuring wheelchair access and rainwater harvesting.

Two new “chuck and chew” waste lorries had been procured, along with 1,500 new wheelie bins.

Four conservation and environmental projects, due to start in April 2014, attracted grants worth more than £260,000.

Significant advances were made in standards of education. Almost half of the young people who took GCSEs in 2013 achieved a C grade or better in English and maths.

Mr Owen also said that December 2013 saw the introduction of a Minimum Income Standard. “St Helena should be proud that it is leading the world in ensuring that our benefits system properly reflects the actual costs of living here,” he said.

“This will be reviewed at least annually, with benefits adjusted accordingly – a tangible demonstration of our commitment to protect the most vulnerable from the rising cost of living. But this is only a starting point and we all know that there is much more to do.”

Other recommendations in the Sainsbury Report, commissioned from York University, would be considered over a five-year period – including a child benefit allowance, which the government planned to introduce from April 2015.

But he added: “Bringing benefits up to the level that we all see as desirable will be expensive, and to introduce every proposed reform now would simply be unaffordable.”

A settlement of £13.55 million in UK aid was confirmed on 13 March 2014 – an increase of £150,000 – with a further £4.5 million to cover the running costs refurbishment of the RMS St Helena.

The amount set aside for overseas medical referrals rose to £947,000, more than double the previous year’s figure.

Mr Owen said the budget also reconfirmed the government’s funding for the National Trust, New Horizons, Heritage Society and South Atlantic Media Services, and saw increased funding to SHAPE and the Public Solicitors Office, along with new funding for the Human Rights Office.

European funding of around 21.5 million Euros was likely to be made available for infrastructure development on St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island over the period 2016-20. Specific projects had yet to be formally agreed.

WHAAAAaaaat? Writer’s accolade for St Helena coffee

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 23.07.14Coffee writer Maja Wallengren’s cup was fairly flowing over when she reviewed the product of St Helena’s estates on her SpillingTheBeans website. Now she has declared it her Coffee of the Year.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 23.04.56She really was keen.

“SpillingTheBeans can hardly contain the excitement to be able to share SUCH a rare coffee with you,” she wrote.

“It is stunning to find an island coffee with so many flavour attributes.”

It was, she said, “the kind of coffee that makes you stop up after the first zip to take a look at the cup and say out loud “WHAAAAaaaat?” as you ponder in wonderful amazement over where this coffee comes from.”

Maja, a Danish writer who is “crazy beyond passionate” about her subject, was sent a sample by South Sea Island Coffees, the London importers for the island estates in Sandy Bay.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 23.03.02

Click the pic to read Maja’s review in full

Maja told the story of the original Yemini beans being imported into the island in the 1730s, and remaining unusually pure because of the island’s extreme isolation.

The South Sea Islands Coffee website tells how a joint venture with Solomon & Co led to production being resuscitated following the demise of the Napoleon Estate of David Henry, who had left the island.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 23.03.50“Production is now focused on the historic coffee farm of Bamboo Hedge, it says. “The land around the adjoining Wrangham’s Estate is also being cleared for renewed coffee cultivation and, it is hoped, that this will come on stream in the near future.”

Quality controls are more rigorous for St Helena’s delicate bean than would be possible on larger estates, says the website, but there are difficulties – apart from the difficulty of export.

“One of the major challenges for coffee production in St Helena is the deep scarcity of local farm labour,” it says.

20 years serving world-beating coffee

For two decades, people on St Helena have been able to enjoy a cup of their own island’s coffee, thanks to the efforts of Bill and Jill Bolton.

They founded the Rosemary Gate Coffee Estate in 1994 and it is still going strong, reports the St Helena Wirebird tourism website.

“Years of growing and perfecting the recipe has resulted in St Helena’s coffee being one of the finest in the world market,” says the Wirebird.

“It’s a flavour that represents more than three centuries of history.”

The site explains the patience that goes into the Rosemary Gate product, which is sold by the cup or the bag at the Coffee Shop on Jamestown sea front.

“No doubt new commercial opportunities will arise with the introduction of St Helena airport in 2016,” it says, “when inevitably there will be a rise in tourism and the potential for the coffee export market to really spike.

“Until then St Helena’s coffee remains a rare luxury for those outside of the island.”

Coffee of the YEAR: St Helena – SpillingTheBeans website
Rosemary Gate Coffee Estate – St Helena Wirebird
South Sea Island Coffee
St Helena Coffee Company

SEE ALSO: Coffee: how a bag of beans made St Helena a world-beater

New farming plan will help boost economy and health

A blueprint for transforming food production on St Helena – and making the island less dependent on imported goods – has been approved by executive councillors.

The St Helena National Agricultural Policy for 2014-2020 should also help to tackle the island’s problems with unhealthy diet.

The document sets out plans to increase production and food quality, and give farmers new skills.

Click here to read reports from the draft plan.

How Joe’s chicks flew before they hatched – with the RAF

Picture of Lohmann Brown chickens from the Lohmann UK website
Picture of Lohmann Brown chickens from the Lohmann UK website

Joe the Vet was left pondering the ultimate chicken-or-egg situation after the RMS St Helena stopped sailing to the UK.

In past years, the ship’s passenger list regularly included new breeding stock for St Helena’s poultry farmers.

But with visits to Portland Harbour no longer on the supply ship’s schedule, Joe Hollins had to find another way of getting new parent birds from the breeders in Germany.

And his contacts at Lohmann GB, suppliers of the prized Lohmann Brown chickens, really weren’t sure about the idea he came up with:

Transporting 360 fertilized eggs on two air flights via RAF Brize Norton and then a sea voyage from Ascension Island – without shaking them up too much.

Joe evidently wasn’t too sure about it himself – but the island was running out of chickens and in the end, it had to be worth a try.

The island’s last batch of parent stock were past their prime, he said: “They aren’t laying very much, and the eggs aren’t very fertile either.

“We normally bring down our chickens on the RMS from the UK.

“They are what we call the parent stock, and from those we get the eggs that we incubate and hatch so we can provide pullets to the island.

“The last 50 produced something like 5,000 that we sold on to the island – very efficient chickens.

We are behind with our orders for pullets for the first time in a couple of years. We needed to replace the parent stock. But we no longer had the RMS link.”

Flying in fresh birds was the obvious alternative to the ship – but the RAF doesn’t go in for live chicken runs to the South Atlantic. The birds would have to earn their wings another way. 

“We had to find a solution,” Joe told SAMS Radio 1, “so I asked Lohmann to send us the fertilized eggs.

“They didn’t really want to do it. We were setting ourselves up for failure, and to be honest, I’ve been quite nervous about doing this.”

The gamble paid off, and at the start of June 2013, the agriculture unit at Scotland had become home to 187 newly-hatched chicks – none of them suffering from jet lag.

That represented a better-than-typical 54% hatch rate.

Picture from Loghmann GB website

Fifteen of the chicks are male, ensuring good prospects for future breeding of the Lohmann Brown chickens, which are renowned for their friendliness and adaptability – and their prolific laying.

Their first offspring, due after 18 weeks, are set to be sold on to island small holders at a subsidised price of £1.50 a bird.

Lohmann UK was said to be delighted. And in the entire journey from Germany, there were only six breakages.

LINK: Lohmann UK

SEE ALSO: Roddy brings an end to egg imports (with 525 little helpers)

Tea and fruit run out as Tristan supply ship turns back

Rationing has been introduced at the store on Tristan da Cunha after the supply ship MV Edinburgh was forced to turn back while en route to the island.

The ship was 500 miles from Tristan on 30 May 2013 when Captain Clarence October MBE decided to return to Cape Town because of technical problems.

The last delivery of fresh produce and mail was on 26 March 2013. The Edinburgh is not expected to reach the island until 18 June, meaning a gap of 12 weeks without fresh supplies.

The Tristan website has reported that the island store was rationing flour and milk, and stocks of tea had sold out.

It quoted islander Dawn Repetto, saying: “The children are longing for fruit as we have been out of apples and oranges for quite a while.”

The 11 passengers on board the Edinburgh will have spent a fortnight at sea by the time the ship reaches South Africa, probably on Thursday 6 June 2013.

According to the island website,, they include the Tristan desk officer at the Foreign Office, the administrator’s daughter, and two children.

A tug sent out to meet the vessel has successfully transferred spares and repairs have been carried out to enable the ship to continue under its own power, travelling at about nine knots.

If further repairs and sea trials go well, the Edinburgh is scheduled to set out on 11 June 2013 for the week-long voyage to the island – a trip of 1,700 miles.

By the time the passengers reach the island, they will have sailed more than 4,000 miles.

Despite “challenging” weather conditions, all those on board were said to be well.

The island website listed the passengers as: education adviser Carl Lander, his wife and two children; locum medical officer Dr D’Silva; an Ovenstone factory engineer; administrator Sean Burns’ daughter, Kelly; Ian Cramman, the Tristan desk officer at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and islanders Shaun and Renee Green and Glenys Swain.

Fresh produce and perishables aboard the MV Edinburgh are to be inspected when the vessel arrives in Cape Town, and replaced if required.

Focus on farming: special report

Cattle 1 640  by Neil George
Cattle graze on the west of St Helena. Picture: Neil George

Food is at the heart of life on St Helena but imports must come down, farming must become more professional, and government must take it more seriously, according to a draft agricultural policy. Click the links for stories from the Growing Forward plan.

Food imports keep rising after years of farming failures
Farming syndicates face loss of land in efficiency drive
Learn to fight pests and diseases, farmers are told
Agriculture on St Helena needs to go hi-tech, says report
Young hopefuls urged to take a risk on farming
Sniff out the coffee grounds… and the bees
Papaya may pay as island tries to beat fruit fly pest
Reap as you sow: why more money is needed for farming
Food is the key to island life – and tackling its health crisis
Small-scale growers ‘have a role’ as farming goes pro
After the dry spell, paper warns of climate swings
Old ways pose risk to island food plan

Poor hygeine and a grumpy waitress: why tourism must improve

The food was good and the service was excellent, for at least one person who responded to a survey of eating out on St Helena. But others felt they did not get their just desserts.

The insight was presented by Julian Morris, the guest speaker at the annual meeting of the island’s Tourism Association.

“When I was asked to come here, I said to all sorts of people, ‘Could you give me feedback on what’s happening in the hospitality sector?’

“The feedback included, ‘excellent service on a very busy occasion, had a good meal, very well done’, which was good.

“But also comments included ‘hygiene very poor’, ‘wrong order’, ‘an aggressive waitress’, ‘I waited for an hour for my food’, ‘no fresh tuna available on the island’, ‘no dessert offered or available’…

“All of that is money running through people’s hands.”

The failings were not down to the Tourism Department, said Julian, who is head of economic development on the island. “That’s only down to one thing, which is businesses themselves. Service is everything. We all have to improve.”

And businesses weren’t taking the initiative to win customers, he said. “The island is operated on word of mouth. There is never enough promotion being done: special offers, promotions, when things are open, why should people go there. It doesn’t happen.”

Julian told his audience that Enterprise St Helena had begun helping people gear up to the higher standards that must be met if the island was to attract discerning tourists.

The change of culture is beginning in Prince Andrew School. “For the first time, we’ve got a Tourism and Travel iGCSE. We’ve got five people on that course this year.

“We’ve got, for the first time, a Business Studis iGCSE at the school. So this is hard-wiring into the curriculum the coming opportunities that St Helenians will have.”

Hospitality training was also being planned for established businesses, and tourist attractions were being enhanced.

“In terms of the Yacht Club, that’s being improved; walks are being improved, and there’s a programme of promotion on-island and off-island; signage across the place; we’re looking to improve car parking.

“People talk about changing mindsets, and normally what that means is somebody wants somebody else to change their mindset while they retain their own mindset. And that is not good enough.”

St Helena Tourism

Missing piece of paper that left island without onions

A lack of onions on St Helena has come about because paperwork was not handed over.

The port authority in Cape Town, Transnet, refused to let thousands of onions be loaded aboard the RMS St Helena.

The result, according to island retailer Nick Thorpe, was panic-buying in the shops as customers snapped up what few onions they could find.

No more will come until August, he said.

His agent in Cape Town has now told St Helena Online what happened.

He said: “A hundred and seventy bags of onions were booked for W.A. Thorpe on the RMS voyage 176.

“However, as the clearing and forwarding agent failed to submit the necessary shipping order to Transnet, they refused to load the cargo.

“The shipping order is a Transnet document which must be submitted for all bulk cargo being exported.”

Paperwork problem leaves St Helena crying out for onions