Landowning units of pine plantations leased by Fiji Pine Limited were given a $7 million payout at the company’s Drasa Mill in Lautoka this week.
Their first payout in 2013 had amounted to $350,000.
Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said it followed a year of strong financial performance and infrastructural expansion for the company.
He had noted that the industry had been on the brink of insolvency in 2011, with low returns and the non-renewal of leases with culture of indebtedness and corruption that had left landowners with next to nothing.
“So as we celebrate this record lease bonus payment, we can also celebrate that the Fiji Pine Group is more or less debt free, another achievement that would have been very hard to believe only seven years ago,” Bainimarama said.
“You’ve undertaken a program of $67 million Dollars in capital expenditure, building and upgrading mills, plants and other facilities, bringing state of the art tools to bear for Fijian pine development and readying this Industry to remain competitive in an evolving global marketplace. And because of that visionary agenda, combined with your steadfast commitment to replanting and sustainability, we can all rest assured that this Industry will continue to serve and benefit our people for generations to come.”
“I’m also very pleased to know that nearly all the Fiji Pine leases have been renewed. Bringing more revenue, and putting more money into the pockets of landowners.”
The company has repaid over $60 million in loans and in the past six years opened a new timber facility at its Drasa factory, a wood chipping facility at Wairiki and new Vislanda sawmill.
In Vanua Levu, over 300 people from landowning units in the provinces of Bua and Macuata were also given bonus payouts, with a total of 259 cheques amounting to $2.8 million.
Also announced at Drasa was the complete repayment of Fiji Pine’s remaining loans to the Westpac Banking Corporation, with a final lump sum payment of $4.4 million.