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Coconut Company Launch Forecasts Major Export Drive

A new Fijian company has ambitious plans to create a multi-million dollar export industry. This would be by adding value to the estimated 75 million coconuts that fall to the
22 Jul 2015 10:58
Coconut Company Launch Forecasts Major Export Drive
The co-founder of The Coconut Company (Fiji) Limited, Sharon Smith Johns, with display of some of their products. Photo: Jona Konataci

A new Fijian company has ambitious plans to create a multi-million dollar export industry.

This would be by adding value to the estimated 75 million coconuts that fall to the ground in Fiji every year and are never used.

The Coconut Company (Fiji) Limited is already producing what it says is the purest Virgin Coconut Oil in the world.

It is developing a range of coconut based products launching in the next few months.

The products are derived from nuts gathered in rural and maritime communities by ordinary Fijians, who are discovering a new and lucrative revenue source from a perennial crop that would normally be wasted.

Company co-founder, Sharon Smith Johns, said: “Since the decline of the copra industry, tens of millions of coconuts continue to grow on plantations throughout Fiji but are never utilised.

“We intend to empower grassroots communities and generate revenue for them and for Fiji by turning this wasted resource into a major export earner.”

The Coconut Company is a big change in career direction for Ms Smith Johns, the former Permanent Secretary for Information in the Bainimarama Government.

She had resigned to resume her business career after the September Elections.

“When I left government, I took a holiday in Savusavu and Taveuni, the heart of what used to be the copra industry before the collapse of world prices,” she said.

“I was talking to farmers who were bemoaning the loss of the industry.

“Then I started to think about ways in which we could turn all these unused nuts into items of value again – to reinvent the coconut industry in Fiji.

“Other companies have added value on a smaller scale but the idea behind The Coconut Company is much more ambitious.

“This is to develop a range of high quality products to take the Fijian-Made coconut brand to the world and earn new strands of export income in which ordinary Fijians also have a stake.”

 

The markets

Before heading the Government’s information effort, Ms Smith Johns spent many years in marketing.

The skills she gained in major Australian companies such as Fairfax Media are being put to good use in The Coconut Company.

“It isn’t enough to source the nuts and turn them into a range of top quality products. We need to find markets for those products around the world,” she said.

“I totally agree with the Prime Minister when he says that by developing a reputation for quality and consistency, we can take the Fijian-Made brand to the four corners of the earth.”

Furthermore plans to export Virgin Coconut Oil to China are well advanced.

And as well as targeting Fiji’s traditional markets of Australia and New Zealand, The Coconut Company has its eye to export to the rest of the Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.

Ms Smith Johns said: “Consumers everywhere are always looking for quality and that’s what we intend to give them – the best of everything that can be derived from the humble Fijian coconut.

“As there are no added chemicals, our Virgin Coconut Oil is pure, and it is rapidly becoming a household item.

“Consumers are cooking with it, drinking it and using it for its many health benefits. Virgin Coconut Oil is also used as a natural beauty product.”

 

Business plan

Ms Johns said says a central platform of The Coconut Company’s business plan is to put money back into local rural and maritime economies.

“Even on conservative projections, we estimate that more than $1.5 million will flow into rural and maritime communities by the end of 2017,” she said.

This would be from the sale of our oil and coconut products.

“And, of course, the more we export the greater the amount of revenue we will bring back into the country,” she said.

“I’m convinced that we are going to see a great revival in the local coconut industry, with flow on benefits to the rest of the economy and every Fijian.”

The Company will create an estimated 17 new jobs by the end of 2017.

The company will also be launching other coconut-related products in the next three months with an exciting launch in October this year.

Feedback: rachnal@fijisun.com.fj

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