20 Sep 2006

Concerns over future of Fiji dairy industry

8:46 am on 20 September 2006

Fiji's dairy industry is in danger of dying because of the non-renewal of leases in Tailevu province.

The chairman of Rewa Dairy Limited, Josefa Serulagilagi, has told Radio Fiji that if nothing is done about renewing leases now, Fiji can say goodbye to its dairy industry.

The radio quotes a prominent farmer with 500 dairy cattle as saying most major milk producers have reached the stage where they see no future for themselves because of the uncertainty over leases.

Joginder Singh says it takes three years to raise a cow before it starts producing milk for about 12 years and he needs to make future plans if he has to leave.

The deputy general manager of the Native Lands Trust Board, Semi Tabakanalagi, says the board is concerned about the dairy industry but it must ensure that indigenous landowners get the best returns.

Mr Tabakanalagi says they are considering various options including joint ventures between dairy farmers and land owners, and increasing the rent.

He says the NLTB also has to ensure that landowners have enough land for their own use.