6 Apr 2005

Fiji hands over loss-making farm to NZ companies

7:54 pm on 6 April 2005

The Fiji government has handed over a farm on which it made losses of over 6-million US dollars, to two New Zealand companies.

The 1,200 hectare farm known as Viti Corps at Navua has made millions of dollars in losses and the Qarase government has leased the farm to New Zealand companies, Marphona Farms and Hiway Stabilisers, for 50 years.

Mr Qarase says the farm was a drain on the government purse but he hopes its new managers will develop private farming and do pasture improvement to set up a model dairy farm.

The deal has been criticised by opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, who says neither of the two New Zealand companies is registered in Fiji and questions arise about who the real shareholders of the companies are.

Mr Chaudhry says questions put to the ministry of agriculture and the Fiji Trade and Investment Bureau about the credentials of the companies have gone unanswered.

He says the rental charged for the farm is only half of what it should be according to the government's own formula.