FIJI LAWMAKER WANTS DAIRY INVESTIGATED

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By Cheerieann Kalouniviti

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, July 19) - Labor Member of Parliament Poseci Bune wants an investigation done of operations at Rewa Dairy.

The call comes in the wake of the recent consignment of milk from South Africa that was initially held up by the Quarantine Department.

Mr Bune believes the release of the milk was made possible by Government’s interference and suspects there is collusion between the dairy company and senior government officials. His suspicions arose after the delay in the release of the milk by the Quarantine Department who were awaiting more requirements from Rewa Dairy for clearance.

"The normal procedures for Customs include the return of anything that comes without the proper Customs’ approval. There is no excuse that South Africa was unfamiliar with the Customs’ regulations of this country.

"There is a lot of political interference and no transparency. Rewa Dairy should be investigated because everything that is happening is done under a good cover- up," he added.

Mr Bune told the FijiSUN that the same overseas company that certified the importation of milk from South Africa was the same one Lodhias Limited used to certify their consignment of milk last year.

"When it arrived through Customs it was found that the milk was not safe for consumption. Lodhias has sued the company and the case is now before the High Court," he said.

According to Mr Bune, Rewa Dairy chairman, Ram Chand said that the milk was safe.

"Even then, Government should have waited for the result of the case between Lodhias and the overseas company before releasing the milk," added Mr Bune.

However, Mr Chand said that for anyone to insinuate that Rewa Dairy had engaged in an illegal act, or that this milk powder may be inferior was extremely sad. Customs director, Tony O’Connor confirmed that the consignment from South Africa was released about two weeks ago but the Quarantine department was responsible for carrying out checks and clearances.

Minister of Agriculture, Jonetani Galuinadi said that Rewa Dairy had followed requirements for the importation of the powdered milk. The containers of imported milk were held by the Quarantine Department because more papers from Rewa Dairy were needed before clearance. It is the law that unsterilised dairy products may be imported only from Australia and New Zealand but this does not make the importation of milk from South Africa illegal.

He reiterated that the Fiji Labour Party had been vocal on the matter. According to Mr Galuinadi the consignment of instant full cream milk was manufactured packed and exported by Nestle South Africa (Pty) Ltd.

Mr Chand said that they had documents issued by overseas health authorities that showed that the milk powder imported from South Africa was suitable and appropriate for its intended use.

"All relevant health and other documentation showed nothing wrong with the product, it is certified safe and fit for consumption and the same milk has been sold in many countries including Australia," Mr Chand said.

July 19, 2004

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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