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By Royson Willie

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 29) – The population of Vanuatu can now consume rice that has been imported all the way from Sacramento, California in America.

This U.S connection was made possible through a 100 percent ni-Vanuatu owned company called the Vanuatu Indigenous Development Alliance (VIDA).

VIDA is a local company formed to promote and encourage ni-Vanuatu with expertise to effectively import and export any product directly from the provinces of Vanuatu.

This would be done by empowering and uniting all people of Vanuatu through the responsible use of the country’s abundant natural resources to achieve real social and economic autonomy and independence for the country.

One of its main objectives is to restore alienated 75-year leased lands to traditional owners, especially large agricultural land.

In a nutshell this company was formed to ensure the betterment of ni-Vanuatu in a sustainable environment.

The shareholders of the company are ni-Vanuatu’s Mr Alfred Maliu and Mrs Sere Natuka, backed by Ms Isobelle Gidley who is herself part ni-Vanuatu.

VIDA’s management is under the General Manager Mr Yama Natuka and his Assistant and Financial Controller Mr Nakat Willie.

Their Salesperson in Port Vila is Mr Konelly George.

Since its establishment six months ago, VIDA has paid up to Vt5.8 million (US$54,800) in government tariffs for rice import alone and Vt6 million (US$56,700) government tax for its imported Sundays cigarette brand.

The breakthrough in rice import was made after unsuccessful attempts to convince local commercial banks to facilitate with a starting loan.

After these futile attempts, Ms Gidley went to Australia to source some assistance. In Australia she managed to convince two individuals to assist the company with a soft loan as it was impossible to get any lending assistance from the banks in Vanuatu.

Having secured the funds, the first rice company to approach was the Rice Growers Cooperative of Australia.

Although this Australian company showed interest, it stated that it already had a client in Vanuatu.

The next step that had to be taken by VIDA was to find another rice company, but this time in the United States of America.

This U.S rice company is called the Farmers’ Rice Cooperative (FRC), which produces its brand rice called Diamond G Calrose Rice.

FRC is a grower-owned rice marketing cooperative with corporate offices in Sacramento, California.

Apart from Guam and Hawai’i, Vanuatu is the only other Pacific island country that that is known to import this rice.

Despite this product being imported all the way from America, it is already very popular among the local chefs and rice consumers not only because of its quality and content but also because of its affordability in shops.

Consumers have commented on the product as having a similar taste to the Australian imported rice when cooked and has no smell like those sold in some of the shops in town.

Apart from this Californian grown rice being sold in Luganville in Santo and Port Vila, Tanna recently had its first wave of the new rice product last week.

Four containers full of Diamond G Calrose Rice were shipped to the island on board the MV Boulari last Tuesday.

This experience of struggle and breakthrough for a ni-Vanuatu company to establish itself is a nudge in the hip for the government to make available credit facilities that are accessible to ni-Vanuatu and will directly benefit them to venture into the very competitive business sector.

January 3, 2004

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