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Fiji Pine Group Tells of Ambitious Planting Plan

For the company’s 2023 establishment programme, preparations are already underway for another massive season with a planting programme target of 8,000 hectares. 

The pine industry in Fiji has come out of a state of insolvency through the many reforms undertaken since 2011. The Fiji Pine Group of Companies (FPGC) is a significant operator in Fiji's forestry industry.

The industry has been developing and growing at a remarkable rate for the past 11 years and it has continued to prosper and grow despite the increasing pressures it faces each year from the unpredictability of global chip market pricing, pandemics, and of course, natural disasters.The true partnership of trust between the industry's landowners, employees, and the Government is largely responsible for the industry's steadfast endurance. 
The company’s tripartite partnership aims to maximise the use of their base resources, which are primarily leased lands, through the planting of pine trees, the extraction of logs, the production of timber and other products such as chips, and the full realisation of returns by all of its landowning units.
In August this year, Prime Minister and Minister for Forestry Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama handed over lease security bonuses worth $6 million to landowners leasing land to Fiji Pine Limited (FPL) in Drasa. Mr Bainimarama said in his speech that this payment was an addition to the tens of millions of dollars that had been paid to landowners since they introduced lease security bonuses—making for $36.5 million in dividend payments to landowners over nine consecutive years. 
He said the company had paid fair and reliable returns to landowners in addition to the Landowner Community Development despite cyclones, a global pandemic, and when the world economy was at its worst.
"…This all continued through the pandemic. Fiji Pine kept paying dividends, it kept employing its workers—even paying bonuses—it kept planting trees, it continued investing in infrastructure, and it even installed satellite internet in remote communities so that students could access educational materials even when schools closed. That, my friends, is a genuine commitment. It shows this enterprise isn’t solely about making and sharing its profits; it is about forging partnerships and sharing prosperity with your communities," Mr Bainimarama said. 

Ambitious planting programme

Since the inception of the industry back in the early sixties, the silviculture establishment programme and forest protection have been the main focus of the company’s operation from the tree breeding programme at the nursery bays to land preparation and planting operations at the planting sites. Encapsulated within are processes and procedures that ensure quality work is maintained at all levels of their forest operations.

Forest protection is the second phase of the company’s activity and it requires a higher degree of alertness with all-year round surveillance and protection, and management and tending of newly planted stands until the trees are capable of withstanding the environmental elements. 
With the continuous support from the Ministry of Forestry, the FPGC has embarked on an ambitious planting programme. 
The Ministry through the Reforestation of Degraded Forests (RDF) project, has been supporting Fiji Pine Limited (FPL) in a number of activities. For the 2022-2023 financial year, the Ministry has allocated a budget of $700,000 for the following; eradication of invasive species such as Acacia, replanting of pine, construction and maintenance of logging roads, purchase of two fire trucks for fire breakers and the assistance in transporting pine seedlings to the planting sites. 
For 2021, the FPGC achieved a record breaking coverage of 4,200 hectares of pine - the highest ever single-year record achieved by the FPGC in an operational year. This has pushed the team to a higher mode of planting for 2022 and a new target of 7,300 hectares was set for the team to achieve. To date, the FPGC has set another new record by surpassing its 2021 planting record.
To help with their planting activities, the company has established a new nursery, ‘Gaunavou Nursery’, in 2021 at Drasa, Lautoka, with a 1.5million seedling capacity.
With the leadership of the Group’s chief executive officer, Vimlesh Kumar, spearheading the planting drive with decisive and well-calculated strategies, the team has managed to further its achievements and deliver as expected, most importantly with a strict emphasis on quality work. 
Mr Kumar said as a result, the FPGC has now achieved 80 per cent of its planting target or 5,923.22 hectares and 100% of its nursery sowing programme. It is expected that all of the pine stations in Viti Levu and Vanua Levu will continue with their planting operations until the planting target is achieved by December 31, 2022.
“The Pine Group’s planting operations do not come easy; they come with their own costs in terms of infrastructure, tools, logistics and field operations. This is a huge investment that the Group will continue to focus on and it has spent quite a substantial amount of money on its planting programme for the last 10 years,” Mr Kumar said.
He said for the 2022 planting programme alone, the establishment cost per hectare was around $545.64 which was colossal. For the company’s 2023 establishment programme, preparations are already underway for another massive season with a planting target of 8,000 hectares.  
“All operations are purely funded by the Group and it will continue to invest to ensure that the sustainability of the industry is maintained, our pine landowners are well looked after and our forest stocking level per hectare will be maintained at 95 per cent per hectare come harvesting.” 

Government acknowledges reforestation supporters

The Fijian Government through the Ministry of Forestry, applauds the initiative by its stakeholders and especially the FPGC, in supporting Fiji’s landscape restoration programme. The programme aims to plant 30 million trees in 15 years, but it has achieved half its goal in less than four years.

Forestry Permanent Secretary, Pene Baleinabuli said the achievement showed Fiji's dedication to managing natural resources like forests sustainably to contribute meaningfully to socio-economic development and the improvement of livelihoods for all Fijians who rely on the forestry sector, while also helping to protect the environment, enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem services, and combating climate change.

He acknowledged every Fijian and visitor that had contributed to this programme and especially stakeholders like the FPGC.

The Ministry assured FPL of its support since they would continue to submit their planting data to support the Ministry's planting programme and thus achieve the Ministry’s target of two million trees a year.

"I am very happy to share with you that Fiji as a nation, in less than four years, has collectively planted 16.8 million trees and mangroves – that’s a huge achievement for our country. The Ministry will continue to coordinate Fiji’s land restoration and tree-planting campaign with the aim of expanding our forest cover, restoring degraded forest areas, and increasing our plantation species to cater for Fiji’s timber needs.

"We thank stakeholders like the Fiji Pine Group for taking the lead in restoring our plantation forests, with the main focus being sustainability, which means planting more than it harvests.

"We also thank the landowning communities, schools, civil society organisations, religious organisations, and individuals who have actively contributed to Fiji's tree planting revolution," Mr Baleinabuli said.

Source: Fiji Pine Group / Ministry of Forestry

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