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Govt Aid Reassures Village Businesses

Govt Aid Reassures Village Businesses
Susana Yalikanacea with her coconut products
May 08
08:11 2015

A couple who run a virgin coconut oil (VCO) and soap making business on Cicia Island in the northern Lau Group have expressed relief after being assured of Government assistance to boost their livelihood.

Susana Yalikanacea, 56, has been running the business for almost nine years and was praised by Commissioner Eastern Luke Moroivalu for being a great example of villagers creating an economy for their own islands.

As such, she will soon receive Government assistance for the first time.

Mr Moroivalu visited Ms Yalikanacea’s production site and was impressed with what he saw.

“This is exactly what we need, villagers starting up businesses, providing employment for the locals, creating some sort of financial system on the island,” he said.

“She has informed me of the needs of her business that will enable it to expand and grow and we will see how best we can assist her and she has our reassurance.”

Ms Yalikanacea said she needed a spare room for soap making because that was something she did every day. She told Mr Moroivalu she also needed a dryer for their coconut mill.

The former senior agricultural officer retired last year and said she started her business in 2007 after writing a project paper for Lau Province that was not approved by the ministry.

“When I was an officer for Agriculture they asked us to write a project paper for our provinces and I was acting SDO Lau, so I wrote a paper requesting to develop coconut industry in the Lau Group,” Ms Yalikanacea said.

“Looking at other provinces in the Eastern Division, Lomaiviti and Kadavu were doing yaqona and dalo, bringing in quick cash and when they looked at copra, the ministry said ‘no’,” she said.

Ms Yalikanacea said she requested $300,000 for the project, which was withdrawn and invested into the other provinces.

“In my project proposal I requested a machine which was introduced by Ian Chute, who was based in Colo-i-Suva at the time,” she said.

“I saw it there and thought it would be a solution to our problems in the Lau Group, to get this machine and process our own copra and our own oil.”

Ms Yalikanacea said her husband, Epeli Draunidalo, then went to the Fiji Development Bank and they were given a loan of $40,000 to buy the machine.

“In 2007 we installed the machine here and it was running and we were selling coconut crude oil to Makosoi Products for $2 a litre,” she said.

Ms Yalikanacea said just after a year their machine broke down.

“We brought the spare parts, but we still couldn’t operate it. We kept on searching for other options and that’s how we came across virgin coconut oil (VCO) and soap making,” she said.

Ms Yalikanacea said their business is not operating as anticipated right now because of marketing problems.

“Currently, we process 600 coconuts in a day and we get about 28 litres a day and five litres of sinusinu (coconut milk curd),” she said.

Ms Yalikanacea said they were currently selling their oil to Sereana Qoro of Nature’s Gift at $13 per litre.

“We currently employ two boys and a girl and we buy coconuts at 10 cents each from our brother-in-law who owns a coconut plantation,” she said.




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