SUNBIZ

Rakiraki Economy Needs Stimulation

The calls have included suggestions for local businesses to set up factories in the tax free zone, which runs from Rakiraki to Tailevu s as to create employment that could stimulate the economy of this small sugar town.
17 Nov 2019 12:14
Rakiraki Economy Needs Stimulation
The main road in Rakiraki Town. Photo: Charles Chambers

The closure of the Penang Mill in 2016 following its destruction by Tropical Cyclone Winston has prompted calls by some businesses in Rakiraki for the creation of employment opportunities.

The calls have included suggestions for local businesses to set up factories in the tax-free zone, which runs from Rakiraki to Tailevu s as to create employment that could stimulate the economy of this small sugar town.

Penang Mill

The Penang Mill was built in Rakiraki and being the smallest of the four mills operated until the end of crushing in December 2015.

On February 20, 2016, Category Five Tropical Cyclone Winston wreaked havoc throughout Fiji, including Rakiraki where the mill was.

The destructive force of the winds completely destroyed major structural building with floodwaters submerging major machinery.

Fiji Sugar Corporation

However, the good news is that the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) was looking at several options that could be set up at the mill site, which has been cleared.

FSC chief executive officer Graham Clark said there will not be a syrup mill erected there as earlier reported.

“We do not have any plans for a syrup mill but we are still evaluating as to what project will be built on that site.

“We have several options,” Mr Clark said without revealing what they were.

Business Community

Businesses the Fiji Sun spoke to this week all sang the same tune – the closure of the mill had affected them with one saying sales had dropped by almost 50 per cent.

Ra Book Shop director Subramani said business had dropped by 50 per cent.

“I feel FSC should build something else at the site as this town badly needs to have more people working.

“When the mill was running, money was always spinning around and with those happenings businesses were okay,” Mr Subramani said.

Simadra Narayan, manager of Roopesh Gift Shop said local businesses should make use of the tax-free zone to build.

“With these factories, people could be employed and the town could continue to function properly.

“We also see that because some shops do not stock up on certain items, some people were now driving down to Tavua and as far as Ba to do shopping.

“The main thing that is needed in Rakiraki is an increase in employed people as this is the only way the economy can improve here,” Mr Narayan said.

S D Dairy Shop owner Sachin Deo said business was getting worse day by day.

“There is no proper employment for people here – nothing here.

“When the mill was running everything was okay but after its closure, things have dropped for businesses.

“There were a lot of people in Rakiraki who were directly or indirectly involved when the mill was running so imagine without the mill now. A lot of people are unemployed.”

Mr Deo agreed that more big factories should set up shop n the tax-free zone in Rakiraki.

Major Businesses

The major businesses presently driving Rakiraki town are tourism, when many of Fiji’s beautiful resorts and hotels are situated along with a route named Sun Coast and the market vendors.

There are also some businesses like Bhimas, a major contractor who employs a number of people.

However, as observed there was very little development happening as one could sense that investment was not high on the list considering the small economy for the district.

Major Hotels

Major hotels included the Tanoa Rakiraki Hotel, Wananavu Beach Resort, Volivoli Beach Resort, Duadua Beach Resort, Golden Point Resort, Dream View Villas and other smaller tourist destinations.

The Nananu–i-Ra and Nananu-i-Cake islands feature several resorts and boutique properties renowned for diving, snorkelling and water activities in one of Fiji’s most beautiful corners.

FIJI Water, situated in Yaqara, is the biggest exporter of mineral water is in the Ra Province but is more close to Tavua town which receives almost all business from its workers.

The Yaqara Pastoral Company Limited, also situated at Yaqara operates an expansive cattle, sheep and goat farm but like FIJI Water, the employees spending virtually goes into the Tavua economy.

Agriculture is perhaps one of the major contributors to the economy in that growers who come to sell their produce at the Rakiraki market carry out their shopping before returning home.

Suppliers and growers come from the rich farmlands of the Ra Province, including mountainous villages in Nadarivatu and near Mount Tominivi, Fiji’s highest mountain, where the cooler climate of these elevated areas allow vegetables such as tomatoes to grow throughout the year.

Overview

How can business be encouraged to set up and come under Fiji’s tax-free region, and offer many agricultural, commercial, industrial and tourism opportunities?

Rakiraki drew residents with the opening of the Penang Mill in 1878.

The Rakiraki Town Council was incepted in 2010 when Rakiraki was officially declared a town.

Business owners know the real picture of the town and their feel of the downturn in business should stimulate businesses outside of Rakiraki to make use of the tax free zone while creating new employment.

Feedbackcharles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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