The Honourable Cabinet Ministers;
The Major Shareholders of Fiji Coconut Millers Pte Limited;
The key Stakeholders to Fiji Coconut Industry;
The Chairman and Directors of the Board of Fiji Coconut
Millers Pte Limited;
The Management and Staff of Fiji Coconut Millers;
Ladies and Gentlemen
Bula Vinaka and good afternoon.
Last month in Suva, Copra Millers Fiji officially took up the name Fiji Coconut Millers PTE Limited – a new brand that signalled a new and diverse range of products borne from Fijian coconuts.
Here in Savusavu, the home of some of Fiji’s oldest copra plantations, we’re unveiling the latest Fiji Coconut Millers Limited product: Fiji Coconut Cooking Oil – a cold-pressed cooking oil perfect for adding the proven health benefits of coconut oil to anyone’s diet. And alongside this new product, we’re proudly welcoming a 386,000-Dollar- investment into its production – a quarter million of which is supplied directly by your Government.
Our people’s health will certainly benefit from the addition of healthy fats, like coconut oil, rather than highly processed oils and other foods. But I want Fiji Coconut Millers Limited, and our farmers here today, to think even bigger about the possibilities for this new product, and the potential of your new brand.
As I speak, a great many Aussies are stuck at home, staring at old photos of their holidays to Fiji, dreaming of the day they can return to a Fijian beach toting a cold glass of bu. But Australians, Kiwis, Americans and other visitors shouldn’t have to spend hours in the air just to get a taste of Fiji, or Fijian coconuts; they should have that option at home in their kitchen pantries. And down the track we must get ambitious about launching new products – such as coconut water – which nations like Thailand and Indonesia are shipping around the world.
We must position Fiji’s Coconut Industry to capture that massive market potential.
Here on Vanua Levu, the North’s hidden paradise has been the beating heart of coconut growing for generations. Since the first plantations were established in the 20th century, the crop has been a stalwart of Fiji’s Northern economy. But it’s time we transform copra production from a plantation-level exercise, tap into more of the diverse uses of coconuts, and turn Fijian coconut growing into the full-fledged industry it’s capable of becoming.
The first step is achieving the commercial scale we need to be competitive.
Copra production in Fiji has been on the decline for some time. As cyclones have devastated plantations, pests and disease have claimed crops, international competition has stepped up and pricing has proved volatile, copra growers were faced with uncertain prospects.
That’s why – over the past few years – my Government has steadily supported our farmers with a subsidised minimum price of $1,000 Dollars per ton, irrespective of the world market price. We also pay farmers $20 dollars per new palm planted, in order to support the large-scale growing necessary to keep this brand price competitive in Fiji and overseas.
Today, this new production facility is granting us a glimpse of the future of Fijian copra growing. Instead of supplying copra to this factory, farmers can provide whole coconuts, cutting their production costs.
These coconuts will be hygienically de-husked, de-shelled and refined to produce high-quality, chemical-free cooking oil.
Friends, there’s no doubt we’re living through a period of great uncertainty as COVID-19 continues to ravage countries around the world. While Fiji’s decisive actions spared us any loss of life from the virus, major sectors like Tourism have taken a massive hit, and global supply chains have suffered from restrictions and falling consumer spending.
But history has taught us that new companies – and even entire industries – often rise from the ashes of economic crises to seize on emerging opportunities. So, through the difficult months ahead, we should not be deterred from our vision for this Industry. Our farmers should keep planting palms, the Board of Fiji Coconut Millers must keep innovating, and we must continue building this new brand by producing high quality products for the local market, and markets far beyond our shores.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.