THE introduction of new technologies on Taveuni will boost copra production as government aims to ensure maximum returns are driven back to the economy.
This follows the announcement of a whole nut processing plant in Mua — one of many projects outlined by the Department of Agriculture. Permanent secretary for Agriculture Ropate Ligairi said the construction of the processing facility would open a window of opportunities for farmers, women and youths on the Garden Island.
"They (farmers, women and youths) can be trained on how to produce virgin coconut oil, activated carbon, coir and other coconut products. This is one of government's plans in the restructure of the industry.
"The training facility will start with the processing of virgin coconut oil, activated carbon, coconut water, coconut milk, coir and later other by-products of coconuts with readily available markets.
"The facilities will be well equipped with appropriate technologies that will make the processing of the coconut by-products easier, less labourious and time-consuming," he said in a statement from the Ministry of Primary Industries.
The new technologies includes a de-sheller to remove coconut shells, a shredder that can shred kernel from 100 nuts in seven minutes and a squeezer that can drain coconut milk from the shredded kernel of 100 nuts in 15 minutes.
Mr Ligairi said the technologies would reduce the labour and time spent on the menial tasks of processing coconuts for value addition. He said it would augur well for those venturing into this line of business and the future of the industry. "After being pushed almost to the brink of oblivion, Fiji's coconut industry is already on a comeback trail with new products that are well supported by scientific research," he said.
"We are banking on these demands to revive our coconut industry that had once been the cornerstone of our economy. Many farmers in the rural areas as well as the outer islands had sent their children to school on money earned from copra. We are looking at the plant as a training centre and a research facility that looks at all the by-products we can produce locally from coconut."
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department hopes to supply 146,000 coconut seedlings from Mua to farmers interested in growing coconuts for the copra, whole nut or 'bu' (green coconut) markets.