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Business

PM opens first milk chilling centre in the West

April 13
11:00 2013

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, (second left) in discussion with Southern Cross Foods and Fiji Dairy Limited chief executive, Vishwa Sharma (left) after opening the first milk chilling centre in Ba yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

By JYOTI PRATIBHA

Yet another milestone achievement was marked in our dairy industry yesterday.
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama opened the first milk chilling centre in the Western Division for Southern Cross Foods Limited, new owners of Fiji Dairy Limited.
The official opening was done at Southern Cross Foods headquarters in Ba.
Southern Cross Foods Limited, a subsidiary of CJ Patel Group, bought into Fiji Dairy Limited last year, whereby a number of commitments were made by the group.
Opening of chilling centres in the West was one of them.
Commodore Bainimarama said the installation and subsequent opening of the chilling plant had been possible because Government facilitated private sector involvement.
“Nothing is more important to Fiji’s future than for us to become self-sufficient in food production,” he said.
“This is especially so in the case of the milk industry, where our reliance on imports is unacceptably high.”

Reviving Western dairy industry
Apart from the official opening, farmers in were also handed over 80 milking cans and 50 cows – jointly by the Government and Southern Cross Foods.
This has been done to kick start the dairy industry in the Western Division.
“Such an approach assists the poor, creates jobs and opportunities and sustained livelihoods that flow from encouraging investment through a transparent system,” Commodore Bainimarama said.
Southern Cross Foods chief executive, Vishwa Sharma, said the developments made by the company and Government since acquiring Fiji Dairy was an example of a responsible and transparent public-private partnership.
“The partnership for the growth of the dairy industry here is benefitting all Fijians,” he said.

Second chilling centre
The Agriculture Ministry has been doing the field work to identify potential farmers and Southern Cross Foods has come with infrastructure development.
“We have already installed one chilling station here on this site and the second would be installed at Yaqara,” Mr Sharma said.
The Yaqara pastoral board approval is awaited for subleasing quarter acre of land to set up the chilling station.
“To assist farmers in West, we will be responsible for all collection of milk from farms and transporting it to the respective chilling centres and then on to Suva for processing,” Mr Sharma said.
Initial testing of milk would be carried out when milk would be collected before it is transported to the chilling station for further tests.
This initial test would be to determine the quantity of water added amongst other verifications.

Transportation cost and benefits
The cost of transporting milk to chilling stations from farms would be borne by Southern Cross Foods, which will highly reduce such costs for farmers.
Mr Sharma said the dairy industry represented a significant incremental opportunity in West.
“Currently, an existing farmer can easily accommodate five to seven cows, producing an average of 40 litres of milk per day. This can earn around $200 a week,” he said.
“This level of income per farmer in West has significant impact on the livelihood of these farmers and the economy of these areas.
“It makes sense for more people to consider dairy to supplement their income and it makes economic sense for Fiji, as we increase domestic supple to meet demand.”

Core dairy district
Mr Sharma pointed out that while looking at expanding the dairy industry it was also important not to forget the core dairy district from Navua to Korovou.
“We have seen a declining number of farms in the Tailevu and Waimaru districts and also decline in existing farm investment,” he said.
“This is mainly because of the expiry of dairy land leases.
“I would like to use this opportunity to urge our Prime Minister to lead us to a resolution on the dairy lease extensions in Central Division, where an agreement can be reached to benefit all Fijians- landowners, dairy farmers and Fijian dairy consumers.”

Production and consumption
Out of the 77 million litres of milk consumed in Fiji annually, only 10 to 12 million litres are produced here.
By 2015, Government intends to increase that to 15 million.
Mr Sharma said they were committed to all facets of the dairy industry.
Southern Cross Foods have a 350-acre farm in Waidina and a 700-acre farm in Waimaro.
“Southern Cross Foods remains steadfast in its support of the dairy farmers – both in Central and Western Division,” he said.
“We recognise that without Government’s contribution, we would not have a dairy industry.”

Farmers happy with progress
Farmers present at the opening said they were happy with the progress they have seen on the dairy industry front.
However, they are hopeful further negotiations could be held on the price of milk.
Currently for each litre of premium milk, a farmer would get 80 cents.

An iconic decision
The Marama Tui Ba Adi Laite Koto Koroirua said the decision to install the chilling plants in Ba and Yaqara is for the betterment of Fijians.
“This is a proud day for us and farmers are urged to make the most of this,” the Marama Tui Ba said.

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