18 Jun 2013

Vanuatu copra companies ready to sue for government debt

7:08 pm on 18 June 2013

Vanuatu's copra buying companies are ready to take the government to court to recoup outstanding subsidy payments.

Two copra companies say the government owes them a total of 859,000 US dollars, and hasn't paid subsidies since last year.

The Minister of Commerce, Marcellino Pipite, says he needs to see proof of what is owed but is confident the 400,000 US dollars left will be enough to pay what is due before August, when he will stop paying subsidies.

He has raised the minimum price for copra to 370 US dollars a tonne in order to protect farmers, but the companies say they cannot compete on the global market at that rate.

The managing director of Coconut Oil Production Santo Limited, Wayne Webb, says the minister has not bothered to communicate with them on this decision.

"He accuses us of making huge profits, it's just absurd. And not once has he ever come to my office and asked me one question, even whether it's a nice day or not, let alone what our financial figures look like. He was in Santo here the other day and didn't come near us."

Wayne Webb.