Women of Batiki in Lomaiviti have expressed their gratitude to the Ministry of Agriculture for its continued support towards the Bula Batiki Virgin Coconut Oil Company Limited.
Bula Batiki Virgin Coconut Oil Company Limited is a 100% locally owned and operated Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) processing company based on the island of Batiki which has markets locally in Fiji with export markets previously in England and now in New Zealand.Batiki Women’s Group President Elenoa Lewakili acknowledged the Ministry of Agriculture’s investment in Bula Batiki VCO as being an integral component towards the development of the women’s group and livelihoods on the island.
“This immense assistance by the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Agriculture for the construction of the processing shed and equipment is immeasurable, along with the support of some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), has enabled us as a budding company to develop further,” said Mrs. Lewakili.
“In terms of our product marketing, it has been made fairly easy following our certification as a fully organic brand, we had markets in England during the initial stage but now only export to New Zealand and there are opportunities being made available for new markets in Australia,” she added.
Mrs. Lewakili also detailed the difference in income generation when compared to the traditional and conventional practice of copra processing practiced before as compared to VCO processing which they have concentrated their efforts on now.
“From the initiation of this project, women of the island have shown their cooperation and thanks, especially as it has provided an income for them and their families because we work only in a day as compared to our harvesting copra before.”
“Before, we would harvest close to 100 coconuts just for one bag of copra which would fetch around $8.00-$10.00 but now since we’ve started the Bula Batiki VCO, we work on an hourly basis earning $3.00 an hour and one bottle of VCO is 300ml which is made from only 30 scraped coconuts, which in turn can produce close to 1.5L and when we compare, the money we earn from the sale of our VCO is much higher than that which we earned harvesting copra,” said Mrs. Lewakili.
Meanwhile, Bula Batiki VCO business consultant, Ms. Jodie Smith who’s assisting with the development of the Bula Batiki brand and business concept highlighted the plans that were in place for the brand. She also acknowledged the contributions of Government as vital for the success of the Bula Batiki brand.
“The support from Government has been really important. Governments come in really like an investor and the money has been granted but it’s what an investor would do and I think without that support, the island wouldn’t have been able to create this.
“Husbands and wives together work here at the factory and I believe altogether we have 43 families who are part of this business and the most exciting thing for me is that this is owned by the entire community as a co-operative and they are producing on island; that means that people don’t need to go away for work, they can just go to work in the village and that to me is just so exciting,” added Jodie.
Through Ms. Smith’s collaboration and work with Bula Batiki, they’ve managed to acquire local, regional and internationally recognized food safety standards.
“My background is both in business development, organics and food safety so I was asked if I could come and teach about organics on the island which was pretty easy to do because they were already not using chemicals so we first got the local standard which was the Pacific organic standard and a local hazard standard and in the next year we transitioned with the support of PHAMA to US Department of Agriculture National Organic Standard – EU Organic and ISO 22000, which is an internationally recognized food safety standard,” she said.
“Earlier in 2020 they made their first sale to Huckleberry which is New Zealand’s largest organic retailer and they’re also selling locally, next steps – body oil for the local market, chemical free and organic certified and surf board wax for the international market which hopefully we’ll be launching at the Olympic Games in 2021 when surfing will be included for the first time as a sport,” said Ms. Smith.
The Ministry of Agriculture funded the Bula Batiki VCO processing shed worth $70,000.00 under the Coconut Development Program and assisted with VCO processing equipment like coconut pressers. Bula Batiki Virgin Coconut Oil Company has assets worth $300,000.00 and are planning to expand and diversify their products to meet market signals and create profit.Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama officially commissioned the Bula Batiki processing shed on Thursday (10.09.20) at Yavu Village on Batiki, Lomaiviti.