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FIJI TIMES ONLIN Salaseini Vosamana Saturday, September 24, 2011

THE Savusavu Copra Mill's crush rate dropped by 28 per cent per month this year, making it far below the monthly rate of 2000 metric tonnes.

This was revealed by Copra Millers Fiji Limited executive chairman Ilisoni Taoba, who said this year's monthly crush dropped to an average of 550 metric tonnes from 2000 metric tonnes.

Mr Taoba said this was attributed to high land and sea freight costs farmers faced when transporting copra to the mill.

"The maritime islands from the provinces of Lau, Lomaiviti and Rotuma are the worse affected by transport problems due to the lack of a direct shipping link to Savusavu mill and the double freight charges by the shipping companies from the outer islands.

"To help reduce transport costs to all our suppliers, the company has with effect from January 1 this year provided a land and sea freight subsidy of $55 a metric tone.

"The government is currently reviewing the high transport costs through the Commerce Commission in order to identify solutions."

Mr Taoba said the current operation capacity resulted in the production of an average of 330mt of crude coconut oil a month.

Copra supply, he said, was at an average monthly supply of 550 metric tonnes compared to 310 metric tonnes a month last year.

"Coconut plantations this year have recovered from the extensive damage caused by Cyclone Tomas in March last year, hence the increase," Mr Taoba said.

He said the company was working with the Agriculture Ministry and other stakeholders to reverse the national copra production trend from the current annual production of 6600 metric tonnes a year to 30,000 metric tonnes as achieved in 1977.

"To achieve this, the stakeholders should have a national replanting and new planting target of 615,000 coconut trees a year over the next five years.

"The above program is considered urgent in view of the additional high value added coconut products such as refined coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, coconut water and coco-bio fuel."

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