Unscrupulous millers

Land owners attend the Fiji Pine Group bonus payment at Drasa in Lautoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

Unscrupulous sawmillers are the bane of Fiji’s pine industry, says Fiji Pine Group chairman Ratu Aisea Katonivere.

While speaking at the – in Drasa, Lautoka on Thursday, he said illegal logging was a key challenge for the industry.

“Our landowners taking away the pine trees that Fiji Pine planted years ago, however, for some technical issue ended up outside the land lease boundary,” Ratu Aisea said.

“One thing that hurts us the most is that when these trees were planted and were growing, no one raised any issues.

“When these resources matured, then many external parties — mainly sawmillers — started moving around with GPS to identify Fiji Pine resources that are outside of the lease boundary.”

Ratu Aisea said landowners got trapped into selling valuable resources that Fiji Pine planted for more than 25 years for short-term cash.

“I ask you as your chairman, have any of these sawmillers or private parties invested a single cent into these resources?

“Do any of these sawmillers or private parties provide the same level of returns that Fiji Pine does?

“Will any of these sawmillers or private parties come and replant this land after harvesting?”

Ratu Aisea told the more than 400 landowners that anyone who sold valuable Fiji Pine Ltd resources to unscrupulous private sawmillers had betrayed the trust that Fiji Pine Ltd had put in them.

“Fiji Pine Ltd is your own company which gives you returns on these resources that is unmatched. “Do not forget the years of investment of Fiji Pine Ltd in bringing these trees to maturity.”

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