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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 18) - Leading businessman and Fiji Flour Mills group of companies chairman Hari Punja is disappointed with the way The Fiji government is treating the ban imposed by Vanuatu on his biscuit products.

In a press conference to celebrate the company's 33 years of operation and the commissioning of the expansion to the Flour Mill, Punja said the Fiji government was not aggressive enough in lobbying for a breakthrough in the Vanuatu market.

"I'm a little disappointed because the way to work it out is very simple," Punja said. "Fiji belongs to the World Trade Organization and it can export its products to any part of the world. Biscuit coming to Fiji from Papua New Guinea is duty free. We export biscuit to Papua New Guinea duty free. That is fine. That is the meaning of free trade.

"Biscuits made in New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and Middle East come into Fiji at a low rate of 27 percent in duty and we have no complaints. So any biscuit made in the world can be brought to Fiji with a reasonable low rate of duty and we do not complain. Similarly we can export our biscuit to any part of the world at a low rate.

"But, why is Vanuatu an exception? Vanuatu is doing wrong and the Government of Fiji is not strongly objecting to this one," Punja said.

He said the Government's objection to the issue was minor and was disappointing him.

The company he said was losing US$2 million a year from the result of the ban, which is a major loss to them.

However, Punja was optimistic that the ban on their product would be lifted. When asked if the company would seek legal challenge on the issue Punja said they had considered taking the step but admitted it would be a slow process.

In celebrating its 33 years of operation in Fiji Punja said the company hopes to double its foreign earnings in the next two to three years.

The company has collected up to US$40million in foreign earnings in their past operations.

The new expansion of the flour mill cost the company US$20 million and US$10 million for the upgrading of the factory.

July 19 2005

Fiji Times Online: .

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