NATION

PM Opens Batiki’s Virgin Coconut Oil Factory

The $75,000 investment brings another source of income for those on Batiki Island in the Lomaiviti Group.
11 Sep 2020 13:49
PM Opens Batiki’s Virgin Coconut Oil Factory
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with the women of Mua and Yavu Villages. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Batiki islanders were thrilled yesterday when Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama officially opened the Bula Batiki Virgin Coconut Oil Processing Shed at Yavu Village.

The $75,000 investment brings another source of income for those on Batiki Island in the Lomaiviti Group.

Jodi Smith, a partner of the processing of virgin oil venture, said the initiative assists many in raising their living standards and the product stamping a mark in the international market for organic certification.

“My great great-grandfather came from China in 1860 where they opened their first shop years later in Levuka,” Ms Smith said.

“I’m passionate about working with communities voluntarily in business development.

“The business turned around three years after I joined. We are now exporting virgin oil to New Zealand’s largest organic retail market.”

Ms Smith is also director of Earth Care Agency that supports growing local businesses.

“We are looking for the value addition of more products like body oil for the Fijian market and surf board wax,” she said.

Food and Safety Officer Akanisi Vunitiko said the new factory would help villagers, especially women.

People in Batiki depend a lot on copra production and the selling of mats. Copra for virgin oil production was a long and tiring process,” Ms Vunitiko said.

“With this new set-up, everything has been made simple, because we no longer have to depend on people to scrape the coconuts,” she said.

Students of Batiki District School performing a meke before the Prime Minister and his entourage. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Students of Batiki District School performing a meke before the Prime Minister and his entourage. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Loata Marama finds the new shed a great asset compared to the past when everything required a lot of manpower.

“I’m thankful to Government for caring enough about us and helping build a shed that will cater for all our needs in making virgin coconut oil,” Ms Marama said.

About 43 families help out at the shed production.

“The isolation of the islands makes internet connection difficult. This is important to our venture as it connects us to our market,” she said.

Mr Bainimarama was optimistic about the future potential of the Bula Batiki brand.

“As Prime Minister and as a Fijian, I am very proud of what you four villages are working together for your common benefit to make a high-quality product that can be exported to the world’s most sophisticated markets,” he said.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama greeting students of Batiki District School. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama greeting students of Batiki District School. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

New Solar Power System

A new solar power system for the Mua Village Nursing Station was also commissioned yesterday.

The 200 people of the Tikina rely on the services of their local nurse.

“We must ensure that the station has the power it needs whenever it needs it. Emergencies and illnesses don’t come on a schedule. We can’t always plan to work when we have power. Any medical facility must have reliable power on demand, 24 hours a day, seven days a week—because lives could depend on it,” Mr Bainimarama said.

The Prime Minister’s Office funded the project at a cost of $72,000 under the Small Grants Scheme.

Mr Bainimarama explained that the Small Grants Scheme helped serve small rural communities.

“It gives each community a way to tell the Prime Minister’s Office what it needs and to have the project approved and funded quickly, with a minimum of bureaucratic fuss.”

Edited by Karalaini Waqanidrola

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