Business

Lomaiviti Provincial Council interested in PAFCO shares

RANOBA BAOA LEVUKA, OVALAU the people of Lomaiviti have queried Government on the possibility of the Lomaiviti Provincial Council buying shares in the Government-owned Pacific Fishing Company Limited (PAFCO). This
30 Jul 2014 10:46

Container slabs for stacked outside the PAFCO cannery in Levuka which will be used for tuna export. Photo: RANOBA BAOA

RANOBA BAOA
LEVUKA, OVALAU

the people of Lomaiviti have queried Government on the possibility of the Lomaiviti Provincial Council buying shares in the Government-owned Pacific Fishing Company Limited (PAFCO).
This question was posed to Prime Minister and Minister for iTaukei Affairs Rear Admiral (Retired) Voreqe Bainimarama when he opened the provincial meeting on Monday.
The PAFCO cannery is the main form source of employment on Ovalau. Roko Tui Lomaiviti Penijamini Velitokaduadua said members had voiced this as a majority of the 700 workers were on the island or within the Lomaiviti Group.
“So we had a brief question and answer session and the PM has said he would have to look into this,” Ratu Penijamini said.
Levuka Town Council chief executive, Suliana Sandys, said while it was a bold move, operating an industry of that size required meticulous planning.
“We just have only one industry. And for us really, it’s Levuka’s lifeline,” Ms Sandys said.
“There are pros and cons to it. If Government gives them shares and they look at it in ways they can contribute to maintain it and to upgrade the quality-well then it’s good.
“But if it’s just a means of making money and making demands, then it won’t work.
“People may become overly sympathetic. Right now what Government has done to keep the factory here is really good.
“If PAFCO moves tomorrow, then you take away the lifeline of the 700 workers here.”
Ms Sandys believed while this was perhaps a good move by the council, it needed careful planning ahead of time.
PAFCO, once a Japanese-owned company, was at one point thriving with many spin-off benefits created from it.
The people of Levuka, after the aftermath of the copra factory being moved to Suva, had somewhat lost hope but soon picked up again with the opening of PAFCO.
However, as times have changed, it is believed to have has become somewhat uneconomical to operate from Levuka.
Initially, plans were there to move the PAFCO factory to Suva, where most fishing companies operate. But this has been put on hold by the Bainimarama Government because of the impact on Lomaiviti.

Unionist claims cleared
Meanwhile, during his FijiFirst Political campaigning on Ovalau, Mr Bainimarama, as the party leader, brought up the issue on unionists.
He responded to concerns raised by the people for pay increase or incentives.
Mr Bainimarama made clear that Government was already operating PAFCO here on behalf of the people.
While it was no longer viable to keep the industry here, he said Government had sympathised with the people, hence the cannery would stay on the island.
He said he did not want the operation to become like that of a pineapple factory in Lautoka many years ago where unionists were pushing the company over the edge which literally drove them to close shut down.
Feedback: ranobab@fijisun.com.fj




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