Jun 28, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

Pods of gold

New flavour offer for choco industry as Vanuatu cashes in

ON Malo Island in Vanuatu, Moli Lui observed in silence as the formalities of greetings and introductions took place to welcome a trade delegation of international cocoa buyers. When the theologian was finally invited to address the visitors, there was no mistaking the enthusiasm with which he spoke about his newfound interest in cocoa farming.

In the minutes that followed, Lui had impressed the buyers enough who, after sampling some of his dried cocoa beans, asked to purchase the sack of beans and have its contents divided among them. The trip to the island was part of a trade visit organised by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (*PHAMA) Program which is funded by the Australian and New Zealand governments.

The visit aimed to establish trade relations between international cocoa buyers and local farmers, producers and exporters as well as government stakeholders in Vanuatu’s cocoa industry. The trade delegation comprised chocolate makers Greg D’Alesandre of Dandelion Chocolate in the United States of America, Karl Hogarth of Hogarth Chocolates in New Zealand, Peter Channells and Li Peng Monroe of Jasper and Myrtle in Australia and cocoa buyer Mathieu Bours from Le Cercle du Cacao in Belgium. 

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I MET a fascinating business woman this week, and she doesn’t much want to be identified, just to let people know of her products. It’s the sort of occupation which has since forever engrossed the natives of the highest Italian Alps as summer faded from the horizon. Turning the fragrances of the romantic months into an aroma which reminds the people there of the now passed happier times helps the citizenry endure the long and chilly dark days and nights to come.

I’ll let her tell her own story ... “My little project started in June 2015 when visiting some of my family in Italy and discovering how a particular scent could typify a village or a community. I felt it a shame we have nothing like it in Vanuatu, especially given all the redolent and sweet smelling scents we are always exposed to around the islands. And whilst I was on an island in Tuscany I met parfumiers and started exploring the different combinations of scents and how they could be produced from the top notes to the bottom notes and essential oils that really make the recipes work.

“I knew we could make a perfumery work in Vanuatu. We have! “I undertook work with professional perfumiers getting advice from everyone in the business and exploring the fragrances I knew from my years in the islands. Friends and family assisted this voyage into the unknown. 

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Unity the key for Vanuatu

LAST month’s Vanuatu report in these pages saw the Kalsakau Opposition ready to stymie the Salwai Coalition Government. However, in the wake of a Chief Justice ruling which declared the parliamentary sitting termination by the Opposition “a disaster”, the Constitutional Review Committee begins its first sitting next week.

Constitutional review is what caused the ructions a month ago. And the Leader of the Opposition will be on the new committee. Working together presently seems to be the order of the day. The Opposition Leader has latterly even applauded the new restrictions on the usage of G cars by civil servants. Lands Minister Ralph Regenvanu is the chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee. MP Johnny Koanapo, who has been heading the Recovery Committee following Cyclone Pam, is vice chairman.

They will be making use of the expertise of many people from a variety of walks of life and following consultation with the electors of the country. Chairman Regenvanu told Islands Business that the CRC’s first report will be ready by the end of August. It should then be known whether a national referendum will be necessary.

The hope of all is that such agreement could be reached by the CRC membership that the expensive undertaking of a national referendum could be avoided. Chairman Regenvanu said the Government would only proceed to the tricky amendments to the Constitution after agreement had been achieved in the CRC.

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Vanuatu steps up

GOVERNMENT and Opposition have both been on winning streaks in Vanuatu this month. And they have been appropriately complimented by Head of State Baldwin Lonsdale. In his attempt to open the First Ordinary Sitting of Parliament in June, following the new legislature’s installation after January elections, President Lonsdale congratulated new Prime Minister Charlot Salwai on his successful relations with the people.

The new PM is from Central Pentecost where he retains the huge goodwill of his community and electorate even though a long-term resident of the capital. People from his home rural constituency remained faithful to their leader, a successful businessman in town. The President also saw Leader of the Opposition Altoi Ishmael Kalsakau as one capable of providing a role in the governance. The government would find him a capable guide, said Lonsdale, following Kalsakau’s long term as an Attorney General and knowledge of the workings of government.

The Opposition Leader is from the island of Ifira, in the harbour of the capital, and well known in Port Vila. The winning streaks? Reform has been on everyone’s minds since many of the previous Cabinet in Port Vila are in gaol following court cases concerning bribery. The new Council of Ministers had arranged a Special Sitting of Parliament prior to the First Ordinary Sitting for the second week of June.

The Government had arranged this sitting to make some 25 constitutional changes to stop perennial motions of no confidence, prevent MPs changing affiliations, regulate political parties and create stability.

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Vanuatu revival time

Ready for business after repairs

VANUATU is back on line after two major disasters – Category Five Cyclone Pam in 2015 and the closure of the runway at its international airport early this year. Cyclone Pam took out the hugely popular Iririki Island Resort and the Holiday Inn as well as destroying infrastructure and smaller hotels. Coupled with the refusal of Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand to fly into Bauerfield International Airport, Port Vila, due to poor runway conditions, visitor arrivals fell to 80,000 – the lowest level since 2003.

With repairs to Iririki completed and the Holiday Inn Port Vila to come on line this month, Vanuatu Tourism CEO Linda Kalpoi is confident of a dramatic resurgence. “We’re looking at a 10 per cent increase in visitor numbers this year,” Kalpoi said at the South Pacific Tourism Exchange on Australia’s Gold Coast.

“Support for us here at the SPTE has been great – our buyers have been really understanding of the situation and they are enthusiastic about the products we have to offer “This is definitely good news for us.” The Bank South Pacific-sponsored event drew around 60 global buyers and 150 regional sellers over two days at Sea World Resort.

“I’m very confident that our numbers can come back up to 110,000 a year very quickly. We’re working hard with a number of partners and Vanuatu will capitalise on a number of projects around the region.” One of those projects is Fiji Airways’ direct services to Singapore.

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