Pandemic Returnees Boost Growth 88km South Of Suva

“Also due to COVID-19 there were so many job losses some of the Kadavu natives were working in hotels – in the tourism sector.
27 Feb 2021 16:23
Pandemic Returnees Boost Growth 88km South Of Suva
Open fibre-built boat operations are an essential and lucrative business in Kadavu.

Here’s a maritime zone question for all you economy followers out there.

What do Goundar Shipping, Patterson Brothers Shipping, Vodafone and Vinod Patel have in common right now?

Quick answer: Kadavu.

These and other major companies are looking at the growth of business in our fourth largest island. And other islands which make up the mountainous maritime province 88 kilometres south of Suva.

First impression when getting off the roll-on roll-off ferry at Vunisea, the provincial centre, is development.

There is not one Prius in sight.

But there are four-wheel drives of all different types and colours.
The most popular: Toyota Hilux.

Vunisea has turned into a town on its own.

“Vunisea was started to serve the people of Kadavu,” says Roko Tui Kadavu Kitione Raibevu.

It has a hospital, Police Station (that also serves as their court house), Water Authority of Fiji, Post Fiji, Provincial Council office, Vunisea Primary and Secondary Schools and a growing commercial sector.

Four shops sell everything from diving gear to matches and fuel.

Biana Bayview Accommodation is the place to stay.

A temporary market area was developed throught the help of UN Women.

The poulation in Kadavu has increased since the pandemic, Mr Raibevu says. This boosted economic activity.

And this time not from money growing marijuana in the rugged forested interior, a  longtime activity which makes Police headlines.

Mr Raibevu says: “People are moving back into the island because of the increase in the price of kava.

“Also due to COVID-19 there were so many job losses some of the Kadavu natives were working in hotels – in the tourism sector.

“They moved back into the island and started to utilise the land, so the population has increased.”

Mr Raibevu says their focus is to assist those who are unemployed because of the pandemic by allowing them to return and use the land available.

Kadavu is known for genuine kava and dalo.

But it is kava which is most prominent as the ferries return to Suva.

With this economic activity companies like Vodafone, Vinod Patel and the major ferry operators are expanding their services.

Mr Raibevu said: “Now you can do at least two return trips during the week.

“You can have a business in Kadavu and live on one of the bigger islands.”

Owner of Island Express Logistics Viliame Naqelevuki is a fine example of a remote Kadavu investor.

The Tailevu businessman also owns and operates a shop in Kadavu while living in Suva.

Mr Naqelevuki said: “When we first invested, we had our doubts so instead of owning a home here we stayed at temporary accommodation.

“With our main business in Suva, we did not think it possible that the concept would work.

“With Goundar Shipping Limited and Patterson Brothers Shipping Company Limited both running again throughout Kadavu, it adds value to sustaining the business.

“We are already looking to expand our outlets as well as bring our logistic services here.

“There has been a rapid increase of people moving back and this is a way to capitalise on that.”


Fisheries, boats

Eroni Sukainaivalu, 30, is one of the many younger people who have returned to Kadavu.

He said fishing and boat services are lucrative businesses to consider.

“Although I was a victim of the pandemic, I am happy it forced me to return to the village,” he said.

“I have been able to survive on running boat tours.”

Mr Sukainaivalu said he earns more than $400 on a good day.


There are dozens of such boat operators alone at Vunisea. They service villagers who come off the ferries from Suva.

He said they rely on the Goundar and Patterson ferries to bring them business.

It is not always only passengers but cargo as well.

He said he was able to invest on his 24-foot fiberglass longboat through money from his kava farm.



Vendors from the local market usually work with small boat owners who transport produce to nearby islands.

Mosese Tuvoci, who has been a fulltime market vendor for more than 10 years, said since the recent cyclones they have relied more on these boat operators. Kadavu has been hit twice.

“They have helped make it possible for the locals to get a variety of vegetables to choose from,” he said.

“We have had to get our coconuts from Taveuni, while our supplies replenish.

“Ten years ago, I was farming and selling part-time. It has been 10 years now and I am a fulltime vendor. I still have my farm but am at the market full time.

“I can tell you I have earned more money here than when I was working in Suva as a civil servant.”


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