6 Jan 2017

Vanuatu landowners want better deal for cocoa plantation

10:59 am on 6 January 2017

A group of Vanuatu landowners is seeking a stay order for the development of a large scale cocoa plantation on Malekula Island.

Established in 1983, the Metenesel Cocoa Plantation is due to be taken over this month by Biscochoc, a French chocolate company based in New Caledonia.

Biscochoc, new owners of a Vanuatu cocoa plantation.

Biscochoc, new owners of a Vanuatu cocoa plantation. Photo: Len Garae

Its chief executive Dominique Lefeivre intends to use cocoa grown at the plantation to produce organic chocolate products.

But a spokesperson representing landowners told the Vanuatu Daily Post that they have instructed their lawyer to file a stay order on the development, while they request the Vanuatu Government to review the lease agreement signed in 1983.

Wesley Obed said under the agreement, landowners are only entitled to receive 89 US cents per hectare of land.

Mr Obed said the landowners are not against plans to build a facility to manufacture organic chocolate in Vanuatu and just want fairness in the agreement so they can get more for their land.

But a member of the present Board of Metenesel Estates Limited Caine Robin has rejected the claim saying there is no issue for the landowners to worry about.

Mr Robin said the Board will increase the landowners' fee once the company is up and running.

He said Biscochoc has arrived in Vanuatu through the door and is a genuine investor.