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SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, April 23) – Viti Corporation’s Aquaculture Unit has carried out its first commercial prawn harvest, bringing in FJ$25,000 [US$14,300] worth of the delicacy.

Initially established in 1996 to grow tilapia, the unit began to breed prawns in 2001 and results have never been anywhere near yesterday's tonnage.

Much of the 1.2 tonnes of Malaysian prawns grown locally is destined for the local tourist market.

Although yesterday's prawn harvest was a record in the country, it is still not enough to be considered as an export commodity yet.

However, Ministery of Public Enterprise officials who attended yesterday's harvest agreed such aquaculture ventures had the potential for development into comnmercial success.

The unit. located at Calia, Navua, covers an area of around 10 hectares and comprises 24 ponds measuring 33,000-square metres. Since the Government leased the property to Dairy Farms Fiji Ltd in 2004, production of milk and prawns have impressed State officials.

The harvest was made possible with the aid of the University of the South Pacific's School of Marine Studies, which provided the prawn larvae and expertise to revive the unit.

"It shows that the model that we are doing in offloading State assets to private entities in order to utilise them for optimum results is working," said Public Enterprises chief executive officer, Pramesh Chand.

Mr Chand said the success of the program would ensure further collaboration with the USP to provide training for aspiring students in Fiji and the region.

He said Dairy Farms Fiji's contract ensured locals in the area could be taught aquaculture methods as a means of possible income generating projects. Other than the 11 prawn farms, Mr Chand was impressed with the other functions of the unit including its increasing supply of milk to Rewa Dairy and its employment of over 100 people from the area.

DFF is a joint venture involving Marphona Farms of New Zealand and Hiway Stabilizers International Fiji Ltd.

Caretaker Public Enterprises Minister Jonetani Galuinadi said the success of the farm should inspire locals to take up similar aquaculture initiatives. Another harvest is expected next month.

April 24, 2006

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