FRUIT and vegetable farmers in the country now have an increased opportunity to gain access to the lucrative export market with the opening of the Bula Island Food Supplies Limited's produce export facility in Nadi.
Managing director Narain Sammy Naidu said the opening of the plant was the culmination of a dream that began over a quarter of a century ago.
"Last year, we exported close to half a million tonnes to Australia, generating almost $0.5 million in freight payments to Air Pacific," Mr Naidu said.
"This year, we have already exported 205 tonnes and if all goes well, we should exceed last year's volume," he said.
"To put things into perspective, in the last 26 years, we have exported close to 14 million kilograms and paid about $15 million in freight costs to Air Pacific," he added.
The company employs 42 staff and Mr Naidu said the number would more than double once the factory was fully outfitted and throughput increased.
"The complex is still a work in progress and once outfitted, it is anticipated that the company will more than double the workforce from the current 42 to approximately 113 people," the company executive said.
"It is also anticipated that over the next eight years, the company will bring in over $35 million in gross foreign exchange earnings, the majority of which will filter down to ordinary farmers in Fiji," he added.
Last year, 200 farmers in the country received over $850,000 from Bula Foods.
Speaking at the opening of the produce processing facility, Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the success of Mr Naidu's business was a direct result of vision and unrelenting effort.
He said many former Fiji residents were returning to the country to establish businesses because of the potential created by new policies of the Bainimarama government.
"These sorts of success stories come from the diligence, hard work and indeed the sheer perseverance of entrepreneurs like Mr Naidu. Many who have migrated are coming back to Fiji because of the many incentives and policies that have been put in place which gives them a hand to set up and to overall help benefit Fiji," he said.
Once completed, the produce export facility is expected to cost $1.7 million.