FIJI COPRA OFFICIAL DEFENDS AGENCY EFFORTS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 27) - The State's negligence of the copra industry is one of the reasons for the decline in production, says Coconut Industry Development Authority (CIDA) chief executive John Teaiwa.

He was responding to comments by Consumer Council chief executive Premila Kumar, who accused the CIDA of being inefficient.

"Coconut is a long term product, it needs lots of funding and 25 years to revive it, not a mere 10 years," said Mr. Teaiwa. "Senility of trees, low productivity, low value, high production and transportation costs and slow replanting are the main cause of that decline, not mentioning negligence by the State."

Teaiwa said since CIDA started in 1998 it only received State funding in 2005. He said CIDA had given Mrs. Kumar a power point presentation on CIDA's plans to revive the coconut industry beyond copra.

"If her aim is to politicize the industry, then she has done the greatest disservice to those in the private sector who have been providing reasonably good service to copra producers under very difficult and challenging conditions," he said. "The CEO went ahead and publicized not only the issues in question but also her views on how to address those issues and suggestions to make CIDA a more effective organization. Nothing was mentioned about the difficulties faced by ship owners and millers who have been servicing these islands for many years in a very hostile business environment."

He said the problems highlighted affected less than 15 per cent of copra supplies and they were localized.

"The CEO gives the impression that the problem affects the entire industry."

He said despite that, CIDA still shared the concern and would do whatever possible to help, but the producers should play their roles responsibly.

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