THE Ra Provincial Council has set its sight on coconut planting as a new business venture.
Looking beyond the normal farming of root crops and vegetables, the council received its first shipment of 5000 coconut seedlings from Taveuni.
The plan is to turn the project into a coconut juice export business.
Council chairman Ratu Meli Bolobolo said villagers were ready to start planting after training on new farming methods was conducted by Ministry of Agriculture officials.
"The main objective of planting coconut trees is to export coconut juice," said Ratu Meli.
"The council has conducted its research and found that 1000 coconut trees can yield $30,000 per year.
"So from 5000 trees, we are projecting to earn $150,000 in just one year.
"It will take six years before the tree can be harvested but at the same time, other crops and vegetables can be inter-cropped.
"We have identified the available lands," he said.
Ratu Meli said the coconut industry best suited the iTaukei villagers in terms of land utilisation and poverty alleviation.
"Unlike sugar cane and other root crops, coconut plantations can be easily managed," he said.
"We can also do intercropping in between by planting vegetables, root crops and grazing of cows."
Ratu Meli said the plan was to have all the districts in the province involved in the new venture.