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Rakiraki plantation to grow lucrative trees

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Sept. 30, 2008) - A newly-established Fiji company comprising Fijian, Australian and European investors plan to inject some FJ$15 million [US$9 million] in the next 10 years to see the teak industry become a major contributor to the local economy.

Fijilive has established that the company, Future Forests Fiji Limited (FFF), invested some FJ$2 million [US$1 million] in the past four years of its existence at Mataso in the Rakiraki province [north-east of Suva City].

FFF director Paul Evers said since four years ago, 30 teak trees have been planted with the recruitment of 40 locals in the area to look after the growth stages of the teak trees.

In monetary value, the 30 trees will cost FJ$12,000 if sold locally and FJ$80 to FJ$100,000 if sold abroad.

"We’re the first private plantation company in Fiji. If you look at other countries like Australia, New Zealand, South America, America and Europe, the timber plantation companies is a boom industry," Evers told Fijilive. "If we’re successful, we’ll end up paying to the Fiji government millions of dollars of tax and export revenue. So, it’s basically creating something that will offset the current account deficit," he said.

He explained that teak, described as the king of timber, was first planted in Fiji in 1880 as it was put on trial alongside mahogany.

He said mahogany was picked because it does not need that much management once the tree was planted.

"For a landowner, teak will give you about FJ$180 to FJ$250,000 per hectare. At present, each farmer would get FJ$18 for a 20-year-old pine log whereas they’ll get FJ$300 for a teak log so the difference is very big," Evers said.

He said the first six years and the next were going to be non-commercial years for the teak industry until after the twelfth year.

In during those times, private investors from Australia, South Africa and the Netherlands will be funding the operations of the company.

"The teak market in Fiji right now doesn’t exist so we’re the first who have come in, and many of the downstream processors don’t know about teak.

"However, most of our timber will end going up to exports, so it’ll end up in China, Europe, America and all over the world," he said.

Teak is usually used for luxury yachts suitable for decking because it doesn’t rot and termite, with its life span ranging from 20 years for boats or 1,000 years old for houses.

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