COMPANIES EYE SOLOMONS’ RUSSELL ISLANDS PLANTATION

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COMPANIES EYE SOLOMONS’ RUSSELL ISLANDS PLANTATION

By Joy A. Rikimae

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 30) – The Solomon Islands Government is negotiating with two overseas companies that have registered interest to take over the operation of Russell Islands Plantations Estate Limited and assets of Commodities Export Marketing Authority.

[PIR editor’s note: The Rusell Islands are located just northwest of Guadalcanal island where the capital city of Honiara is situated; the Russell Islands Plantations Estate was Solomon Islands leading producer of copra, coconut oil, and cocoa prior to ethnic tensions in the country in the late 1990s, according to an Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade report on the country.]

The parties are now in the process of discussing the terms and conditions of the offer.

Caretaker Minister of Commerce and Industries Walton Naezon told the Solomon Star on Friday that the Government had accepted Livers Pacific Holdings Pty Ltd and Australian Biodiesel Group Limited.

The two Australian-based companies will take over the operation of Russell Islands Plantations and the assets of Commodities Export Marketing Authority as of this year.

Mr. Naezon said Livers Pacific Holdings and Australian Biodiesel Group are the only two companies that applied for the tender to take over Russell Islands Plantations.

However, Livers Pacific Holdings’ proposal included a very wide presentation that almost covers all the activities that Russell Islands Plantations had been involved in the past.

"Livers Pacific Holdings have presented a wide range proposal that seem fit to take up the development."

Because of that the government had decided to accept it to takeover Russell Islands Plantations whilst the other company take on Commodities Export Marketing Authority’s assets to develop coconut oil and fuel with other individual local partners in the country.

Australian Biodiesel Group Limited would work in partnership with the Solomon Tropical Products and local copra buyers who have been operating with Commodities Export Marketing Authority for the past years.

"So far there is still no decision on how to deal with Commodities Export Marketing Authority assets – whether to put them on lease or sell them to the company," Mr. Naezon said.

Australian Biodiesel Group Limited would only focus on copra for coconut oil and fuel whilst Livers Pacific Holdings would focus on cocoa, also coconut, cattle, reforestation and tourism, which they also have the potential to develop.

Mr. Naezon explained that it was not really necessary to consider the applications as a tender because the only two companies who applied already met the criteria that are required by the tender.

He said his department saw these companies as a potential to develop the two major areas of export for the Solomon Islands - as it is difficult to attract investors at this stage.

"I think it is not appropriate for a tender, because at this stage, it is quite difficult to attract investors, so we decided to accept both companies."

He said the next important matter to deal with before any agreement could be signed would be: to discuss the terms of references, draw up the agenda and to look at the legal issues surrounding the case of Russell Islands Plantations.

"Any outstanding legal issues must be cleaned up before any agreement could be signed."

Mr. Naezon stated that it is a Government policy that both companies would work in partnership with the landowners.

"We will sort the whole thing and the company will partner with the resource owners. They will take the model of the Guadalcanal Plains Plantations Palm Oil Limited. "

Mr. Naezon said he hoped both companies would agree with the terms and conditions of the government and if an agreement were reached between both parties, it would be sign by the end of February.

" I hope any agreements would be sign with the two new developers by the end of next month."

January 31, 2006

Solomon Star: http://www.solomonstarnews.com

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