Levuka Town, A Thriving Economy

The captain of the Lomaiviti Princess VII shouts orders to his crew on the Bridge and the deck below as the vessel approaches Levuka Wharf in Levuka, Ovalau. It is just past 10am, and the vessel is thirty minutes out in the harbour and approaching the port. Captain Malakai Rokobou Nakurekure’s orders are clear and concise.
30 Mar 2022 11:00
Levuka Town, A Thriving Economy
Levuka Town on March 25, 2022. Photo: Ranoba Baoa

The captain of the Lomaiviti  Princess VII shouts orders to his crew on the Bridge and the deck below as the vessel approaches Levuka Wharf in Levuka,  Ovalau.

It is just past 10am, and the vessel is thirty minutes out in the harbour and approaching the port.

Captain Malakai Rokobou Nakurekure’s orders are clear and concise.


Any muck up in his instructions to the officers on the Bridge and the rest of the crew would risk passengers’, cargoes’ safety and the million-dollar vessel.

The ship has arrived safely after a two-and-half hour ride from Natovi.

Below the bridge, more than 80 passengers are lined up in haste to pay for their cargo while others, who travelled light, queue to get off the ship.

Passengers getting off the Goundar Shipping vessel at Levuka Wharf on March 25, 2022. Photo: Ranoba Baoa

Passengers getting off the Goundar Shipping vessel at Levuka Wharf on March 25, 2022. Photo: Ranoba Baoa

The Heartbeat Of The Economy
Looking out to the port, the big  Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO) warehouse is hard to miss.

Inside this 24/7 operation, hundreds of locals are working on eight-hour shifts on most days.

During the peak season, close to 1000 people are on rotational shift to meet the supply and demand of production targets, Levuka Town Council chief executive officer Josese Rakuita tells.


PAFCO, as he described, is the beating heart of Levuka’s economy.

Many here are generations of employees back to PAFCO Tuna’s heydays during the colonial period.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the First Capital, comes alive.


Employees from PAFCO, those from settlements and villages on Ovalau converge at the UN-declared first World Heritage Site to do business before the week is out.

Mr Rakuita said micro enterprises or informal businesses are thriving.

There is business for the vendor selling roti parcels, juice selling for 50 cents for the parched traveller from either Lovoni, Cawaci and Bureta to name a few.


At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Rakuita said, while tourists to the island was zero, the economy was still functioning.

“Levuka was not so much impacted by the COVID-19.”

“PAFCO continued to function normally,” Mr Rakuita who has been in office for six years said.


“Tuna production was ongoing.”

“In saying that, the economy was good in terms of business.”

“There were a lot of small business that popped up because people found other avenues and smarter ways to operate.”


“There was a new restaurant that just recently opened and I must say there has been traffic there.”

“The food is sold at a cheaper price and that is just one example that money is circulating in the local economy.”

There are three main shipping operators servicing to and from Levuka.


Goundar Shipping Services charges $25 one-way, out of Natovi.

This is an affordable and convenient package for anyone looking to make it on time for the return trip back to Natovi in the afternoon.

George Goundar’s fleet, Patterson Brothers Shipping, and Ben Naidu’s St Mary vessel services are available.


“These boats are taking passengers and cargoes,” Mr Rakuita said.

“Just recently, the Heritage Site received local tourists from staff at BRED Bank.

“This is an indication that economic activity is happening.”

Visits as such, he said, boost local tourism and travellers flock to modern and colonial era accommodation spots.


Kava industry
But that’s not the only activity churning the First Capital, as locals there prefer to call it over the conventional reference, Old Capital.

The kava and taro industry is also promising.

Kava is sold to the local and overseas markets while taro mainly to mainland Viti Levu.


Fiji Kava Limited, which launched its production facility back in 2014 by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, has grown significantly.

As the first kava company to be listed on any global stock exchange, the company is making significant local and overseas market penetration.

Recently, in partnership with BSP Life, it announced a $2 million investment programme that would support a five-year plan for expanded operations across Fiji.



The Fiji Kava facility on the island is closed for now while undergoing a facelift, said company chief executive officer Anthony Noble.

Re-opening of the new and improved facility is earmarked for April or May, again auguring well for the local economy.


Levuka market
The other development that’s earmarked for completion this year is the new and improved Levuka Market.

The two-storey building, funded through Government, will boost the agriculture sector and uplift services further.

Mr Rakuita said the building which will be completed this year, weather permitting, will have a semi-modern look also maintaining the old façade of the building.


The agricultural produce demand from mainland Viti Levu and the regular shipping services certainly go hand-in-hand, Mr Rakuita said.

The general consensus for business operators there is that business has been good given that there was little impact at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a sentiment from an operator who has been in business for more than 50 years.


SPBD branch
And if the above forms of economic activity was not evident enough for this thriving part of Fiji, last week the South Pacific Business Development (SBPD) set up a branch in town to serve women of the Lomaiviti Group.

That too is a clear indication of the confidence in doing business.

Elrico Munoz, SPBD’s general manager said this year alone it was targeting 600 women with a portfolio of $900,000 to be disbursed as loans.


The building, just past the bridge on Beach Street and opposite the Pacific Energy service station, will serve the organisation’s growing customer base.

It has a training room, a tearoom for the women to hangout and network and three staff members.

SPBD director, Lorraine Seeto, during the opening on Friday said: “We are closer to our members, and we are able to provide you with better
quality service.”

“Please consider this your office as well.”


But like all else, there’s still room for improvement as far as development is concerned.

The flight services, Mr Rakuita hopes will resume soon to provide further economic boost.

The other is on some derelict buildings that have been idle for years including the colonial structures.


Mr Rakuita said they had been having talks with building owners and stakeholders in the hopes of restoring the buildings to what they once were and stay true to its World Heritage Site theme.

Back onboard the Goundar vessel, it’s after 3pm.

The passengers who came in the morning boat ride had, in one way or other, made their contribution to this local economy.


Now, the vessel is carrying up to 130 passengers.

This number is just another indication that the First Capital is thriving and contributing significantly to Fiji’s road to recovery. .



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