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Also Island in the News

Fiji Sun Article - Mar 3, 2013 [Link]

Coconut processor sparks interest in Lau

The chairman and managing director of Island Virgin Coconut Oil, Jim Bandy with an attendant as he demonstrates the use of the equipment he has designed to extract virgin coconut oil. Photo: FILE


The news of innovative Fijian-made equipment that would greatly assist coconut farmers was music to Samuela Sukabula’s ears.

Mr Sukabula lives in Mabula village on Cicia Island in the Lau Group.

Like many other coconut farmers he can already see the potential the new equipment would have in improving the lives of copra farmers in Cicia.

The equipment he is referring to of course is Jim Bandy’s Fijian-made equipment designed to ease the production of virgin coconut oil.

Mr Sukabula said: “I was very interested in this new machine because it would save us a lot of work.
“At the moment the main source of income here on the island is selling copra. There are about 200 copra farmers in my village alone. This is why I want to help the development of the copra industry with this new equipment.”

The 57-year old man said he was very interested in acquiring the equipment to continue with the coconut industry on his island.

The equipment

The equipment package costs $30,000 and includes a dryer, press, scrapers, stainless steel buckets, filter for filtering process and all things needed for producing virgin coconut oil. And for another $3000, the equipment will be set up and training and supervision will be provided for the beginning of the process.

“With this new machine I would be very interested in switching from producing and selling copra to virgin oil."

“This would be a good incentive for the people of Cicia to plant more coconut trees for more copra which will eventually lift their standard of living,” he said.

Sukabula the businessman

People may not know this but Mr Sukabula said he was one of the first people in Suva making and selling barbecue in the streets of Suva in 1987.

“I went to court about three times for selling the barbecue and then later I was granted a licence to operate out of the market near the Police post at the Suva bus stand,” he said.

After working from his barbecue caravan, which he bought to sell the food, for 12 years, Mr Sukabula went to live in Australia for two years.

Now retired and back in the village, he plans to use his experience to help his people prosper and do well.

“My father was able to send me to school with the money that we earned from selling copra and they have to work really hard to do so."

"I want to help my people realise the great opportunity that lies ahead of us all with the introduction of this machine,” he said.

Fiji Sun Article - Feb 16, 2013 [Link]

Growing virgin coconut oil industry with passion

Compiled By RACHNA LAL

Welcome to Hard Talk, where we pose questions to both top executives and budding entrepreneurs on some of the major issues involving business.

In 1999, Jim Bandy, the managing director of ALSO Island Limited, which operates in the North, set sail from USA to sail around the world on his yacht.

This was when Mr Bandy stumbled across Fiji. He has since made Fiji his home. Today Mr Bandy is a proud Fijian.

Mr Bandy said: “We were not looking for a place to settle. It just happened.  We were presented with an opportunity to make a contribution in Udu, to make a difference with people who needed help and we took it.
“I have given it my best effort and it has been, for the most part, quite rewarding.”

ALSO Island Limited holds three business certificates.  They build and repair boats, press virgin coconut oil (VCO), and also have rooms for backpackers.

But the business which stands out is the production of virgin coconut oil which not only benefits the company, but also the community.

Island Virgin Coconut Oil buys coconuts from the local community, and also provides employment to these people.

Questions for Jim Bandy, managing director of ALSO Island Limited, and Island Virgin Coconut Oil Limited:

1. What unrealised potential do you believe lies in virgin coconut Industry oil in Fiji?
I believe that virgin coconut oil can provide many small growers and producers with the ability to have an income from coconut.

2. How can Fiji benefit from this industry on an economic scale?
Fiji is already benefiting from VCO. There are some people marketing coconut oil and VCO. Please note I define two oils and there is a major difference between the two. Copra oil is not fit for human consumption without further refining. That refining removes many of the health benefits of un-refined VCO.

For Fiji to realise the full benefits of VCO we must establish a reputation for producing the very highest quality VCO and make sure we differentiate between VCO and coconut oil made from copra or even oil made using improper equipment.

Fiji will never be able to compete with the Philippines or Indonesia because of their volume and labor costs. So Fiji has to promote a quality reputation and the Fiji Tall coconut.

The Fiji Tall coconut has desirable chemical properties that other coconuts do not have. We need to unify around these issues and build a reputation nationally for the Highest Quality Virgin Coconut Oil that contains all of the natural benefits of VCO with no chemical refining or preservatives after pressing.

The real benefit, economically, will come from taking the processing to where the coconuts are and thereby allowing more of the proceeds to be kept with the growers and producers; not transportation and middle men.

3. Coconut is also found in other countries. What sets coconuts in Fiji apart from the rest?
The Fiji Tall Coconut Tree is the first thing that sets us apart. The fact that we have largely or completely organically grown coconut plantations is extremely important.

The story of our growers and their efforts is important. We need to develop integrity in our product. The Fiji Tall coconut trees organically grown, far from pollution is very important. High Quality VCO needs to become our trade mark.

4. What should be done to make this industry more economically-viable?
We have to produce enough VCO of the Highest Quality on a consistent basis to be able to satisfy a buyer or buyers.

We also need to market our products on the internet through a retail operation; promoting our organic environment and High Quality. We need to develop and promote standards for processing and Quality. ALSO Island, Jim Bandy, is working on both of these issues. All of this will provide jobs and export income.

5. What are some challenges you face with your operations?
First, and foremost is help! I find it difficult to find reliable, trustworthy, responsible and accountable help.

Second, is finances. We, my wife and I, are just two retired people living on a small retirement income. We did not come to Fiji to do business; we were on a world cruise, and most people would say we are in way over our over our heads financially.

But we are doing something beneficial, even with our limited assets. Transportation and communications are a constant challenge in Fiji. Poor Telephone service, no internet and poor roads in our area really holds us back.

6. How can Government assist?
I am not big on Government help but, helping those of us already involved with attempting to create the VCO industry would be a place to start. Addressing the challenges mentioned above would be good for everyone. The planting initiative is good. Many of the plantations are quite old.

Engaging our foreign offices to help us to find markets could be of great help. I think government is trying to assist. Fiji has limited financial resources and we need to use them wisely without corruption. There is so much un-realised potential in Fiji. It makes me cry to see that potential go un-realised.

7. What do you think of Government’s plant a million tree initiative?
I really am not well enough informed to say it is necessary. My understanding is that many if not most coconut plantations are quite old. So... if we are going to restore the coconut industry new trees or plantations are necessary.

A senile tree does not produce nuts in good numbers and there is evidence that coconut nuts from these trees do not produce as good VCO as a tree in its prime. I believe that many of the trees need to be replaced.

My understanding is that a Fiji Tall should be replaced after 75 or 80 years to maintain the best production. Coconut is important to Fiji and new ways to market it are being found, VCO for one should tell us we should plant new trees to maintain our resource. If not it goes away.

8. You came to Fiji upon retirement. What has attracted you to remain in Fiji after so many years?
As I mentioned I wanted to sail around the world on my own boat. We arrived in Fiji in 2002 and found their village boat broken. I decided I wanted to see it run again so I purchased and installed another engine and got it running. That had a major impact on the community.

Seeing the benefits accomplished by that made me feel good. With the boat running, other opportunities became obvious. Kyoko and I did things that needed to be done and we could afford. Our rewards were seeing people seize opportunities and try to better themselves.

The more we did the more there seemed to be done.

I was raised to believe I was to do something important and I believe what I am doing is important. I believe when one discovers their “mission” one should pursue it with vigor.  That will bring rewards of the heart and soul that you cannot find otherwise.

The more I do, the more there is to do, so . . . I am still here.

9. What would you say about the international demand for virgin coconut oil?
As I see on the internet and by the research being done, the VCO market is just opening. I think there is a growing demand for High Quality VCO, worldwide.

I am concerned that we need to protect a High Quality reputation so that maximum health benefits are obtained. That is necessary to keep the market growing and carve out a niche market for ourselves.

Fiji Sun Article - Jan 31, 2013 [Link]

Yes, there’s money in our coconuts...

Rachna Lal, Business Editor

A lot of good sense has been said this week about the potential in our coconut industry. This came with the Government hosting the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community Ministerial meeting ending in Nadi today.

Our bigger local businesses have impressed the visiting delegates.

Two such were Punja & Sons Limited, of Lautoka, and Pacific Green Industries (Fiji) Limited, near Sigatoka.  Punja & Sons process coconut oil, soap, shampoo, conditioners and coconut-based lotions.

Pacific Green Industries showcased some of its palm wood furniture that sells internationally.

Another area of untapped potential lies in the virgin coconut oil industry.  The availability of Fijian-made equipment designed by Jim Bandy to ease the production of virgin coconut oil coincides well with Government’s plant-a-million-coconut-trees campaign.

Mr Bandy’s successful ‘Also Island Virgin Coconut Oil’ is proof of the high quality of this type of oil possible to produce here. The potential business in an increasingly health conscious world is great.

Now with more high-breed coconut trees being encouraged to be planted, it makes more sense than ever to invest in equipment like that developed by Mr Bandy.

A scraper, a dryer and a press are the three major pieces of equipment all personally designed by Mr Bandy to assist produce more and better quality virgin coconut oil.

Interest in this equipment has been shown from neighbouring countries such as Kiribati and New Caledonia, and elsewhere.

Although an initial investment of $30,000, the returns look lucrative as simple maths would indicate.  At 700 coconuts a day, four days a week, you have a return of $40,000 per year.

Those who said the coconut industry was dead with the decline in copra prices are being proven wrong daily.  Innovative Fijian business people, supported by the initiatives of the Bainimarama Government, are showing there is not only life in coconuts. There’s also money to be made and jobs developed.

Fiji Sun Article - Jan 30, 2013 [Link]

High interest for virgin coconut oil-producing equipment

The chairman and managing director of Island Virgin Coconut Oil, Jim Bandy, demonstrates to Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama (right) and Asian and Pacific Coconut Community executive director, Romulo Arancon Junior, equipment he has designed to extract virgin coconut oil. The demonstration was done during the opening of the 49th Asian and Pacific Coconut Community Ministerial Meeting in Nadi on Monday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA


Jim Bandy’s Fijian-made equipment designed to ease the production of virgin coconut oil is receiving great interest.

Mr Bandy, who is the chairman and managing director of Island Virgin Coconut Oil, said the interest was local as well as international.

“The equipment has been demonstrated in Labasa and displayed at the recent Asian and Pacific Coconut Community Ministerial meeting and there has been a great deal of interest,” he said.

“The big interest is from the private enterprises in Fiji, but Kiribati is also extremely interested in this equipment and is interested in purchasing 10 sets.”

“The Coconut Minister from Kiribati is very serious and he wants to know when I can come with the equipment.”

Mr Bandy said he has also received interest from New Caledonia and some other Pacific island countries.

The equipment package costs $30,000 and includes a dryer, press, scrapers, stainless steel buckets, filter for filtering process and all things needed for producing virgin coconut oil.
And for another $3000, the equipment will be set up and training and supervision will be provided for the beginning of the process.

Mr Bandy said the $30,000 investment can be returned in the first year even if one processed only 350 coconuts a day for 150 days a year.

But the capacity of the stainless steel dryer designed by Mr Bandy is to do twice that.

“At 700 coconuts a day, four days a week, you have a return of $40,000 per year net profit,” he said.  700 coconuts per day can produce 50 litres of very high quality coconut oil daily.

Next phase
For Mr Bandy, this was phase one and now he is working on phase two.

“I will build a machine to process the husk into two commercially-desirable products. It’s called linnet which is the dust and core which is the fibre to make rope out of,” he said.

Mr Bandy said the byproduct of pressing the coconut for oil (cake), was currently being sold as chicken or pig feed.  He, however, has better plans for this.

“I want to turn that into coconut flour. I don’t know if that is possible but that is my next project,” he said.

There is more than one way to make virgin coconut oil which is the fermentation process.  But Mr Bandy said the downside of this fermentation process was that it doesn’t produce a whole lot of virgin coconut oil.

Quick fact file

- Virgin Coconut Oil can only be achieved by using fresh coconut meat or what is called non-copra.

- Chemicals and high heating are not used in further refining, since the natural, pure coconut oil is very stable with a shelf life of several years.

- A spoon of virgin coconut oil in the morning and at night is expected to control blood pressure, cholesterol level, kidney problems, heart diseases and a number of lifestyle diseases.

- It is also good for one’s skin and hair.

- The new equipment means:

* Husking 150 coconuts takes 30 to 45 minutes
* Scraping 100 coconuts in one hour
* 100 – 25 kilograms of scraped coconut meat
* Dryer will dry 200 coconuts in two hours
* The press will press 150 coconuts in 30 minutes

Fiji Times Article - Jan 29, 2013 [Link]

Jim demonstrating his equipment to Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama at the 49th Asia Pacific Community Ministerial in Nadi.

Jim Bandy, left, from Island Virgin Coconut Oil, demonstrates
how an oil machine works to Romulo Arancon, middle, director 
of APCC and Prime Minister Commodore Voreque
Bainimarama at the Novotel Hotel, Nadi.

Copra yield drops
by Maciu Malo

GOVERNMENT is planning to plant one million coconut trees over three years to increase yields in the future and make coconuts a more attractive source of livelihood.

This is in addition to plans to open a new whole-nut processing facility on Taveuni which will be a training centre for farmers where they will learn about its various products and by-products .

While launching the 49th Asia Pacific Community Ministerial meeting at the Novotel Hotel in Nadi yesterday, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said copra production had dropped to half of what it used to be 50 years ago.

He said Fiji produced about 40,000 metric tonnes per annum in 1950 but this had dropped to about 20,000 metric tonnes per annum.

"This decline has been attributed to the increase in low yielding trees, decreasing copra prices, high production and freight costs and the inability to adapt to changes in technology and the global market."

"That is why the Fijian government believes the coconut industry needs to be supported with all the appropriate and modern resources."

"We have purchased machines for this facility through the Coconut Development Program to demonstrate to farmers how, with an up-front investment, can add value to these products."

Commodore Bainimarama said government recognised the need for support from the international community in revitalising the coconut industry.

"We look to our fellow APCC member countries to learn from your experience and benefit from your assistance," he told the overseas delegates.


Fiji Times Article - Nov 28, 2012 [Link]
Invention for coconut scrapers and extractors

Fiji's Jim Bandy shows the copra dryer he designed and built. Picture: Luke Rawalai

IN a bid to help people of the greater Udu Point area, Also Island Limited director Jim Bandy designed and invented a machine to lighten the load of processing virgin coconut oil.
Mr Bandy yesterday held a public exhibition which saw the machine dry scraped coconut in about an hour.

The display included a modern version of the common electric coconut scraper and the virgin oil extractor.

Mr Bandy said the project was successfully completed through funding provided by the New Zealand government.

"Coconut is a natural resource that is available abundantly in our islands and we have been looking for ways in which we could simplify the task of extracting VCO which often takes gruesome hours of hard labour to achieve," he said.

"I had no difficulty in putting together the scraper and the extractor as all I had to do was make small amendments and improvements to the electronic coconut scraper model before I began work with the extractor.

"In order to extract quality oil from the nuts we needed to ensure that the scraped coconuts had a moisture level of 11 per cent and we had to reduce the normal moisture of normal scraped coconuts which is usually 50 per cent to the 11 per cent mark.

"The moisture level is tested with the weight after drying," he said.

Mr Bandy said the modern easy dryer would certainly save time and energy for his workers who stand for hours alongside the hotplates turning over scraped coconuts.



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