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Lau, Rotuma targeted for plantations

SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, June 30, 2008) – The National Strategic Committee on Bio-fuel intends to install coconut oil plants in the outer islands of Fiji this year as a way to develop sustainable economies in the islands.

Committee chairman Viliame Yabakivou said 80 per cent of the production of coconut was in the province of Cakaudrove and 20 per cent in the outer islands including Rotuma. Oil plants have been installed at Cicia and Lakeba in the Lau Group, with another two to be installed in Gau and Rotuma later this year.

As part of the bio-fuel developments in the country, Mr Yabakivou said the committee was also working on projects in the islands.

He said coconuts were available in the islands which were being processed for copra which had not fully benefited islanders because of the irregular shipping services to the islands.

"Sometimes the boat doesn't come and the quality of copra deteriorates," he said.

"For oil we can keep it a longer time than copra. This is why we're going towards this market."

Mr Yabakivou said issues relating to copra were raised at the district and provincial council meetings.

"The committee has already approached Copra Millers to buy oil from them, but what is needed is government assistance in terms of subsidy or a stabilisation fund to raise the price of oil from $1.30 to $2 a litre.

"$1.30 is not good enough. The recommended price would be around $2 to make it profitable. If that can be done the flow of oil from the islands will improve.

"The problem now is the down-stream processing of oil so we can move to soap making and also edible oil.

"This addresses policies regarding imports and substitutes for imports because we have been importing all these.

"In the island a bar of soap is $5.50 but if we can produce oil in the island the price will be a lot cheaper and the money will remain in the islands."

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