New $40m biscuit factory takes shape in Fiji (V2-S2-16)

FMF Foods, Fiji’s leading packaged foods manufacturer and exporter, is investing F$40 million on a brand new biscuit factory with a view to boost its export capacity. FMF’s brands are well known in Fiji and around the Pacific Islands. The company has been making biscuits for well-known brands in Australia and New Zealand for several years.  

Artist's impression of state-of-the-art factory. It will start production later in 2016.
Artist’s impression of state-of-the-art factory. It will start production later in 2016.
FMF Group Managing Director Ram Bajekal.
FMF Group Managing Director Ram Bajekal.

This substantial investment is in response to growing demand for FMF products regionally. Speaking to Pacific Periscope from Suva, FMF Foods Managing Director Ram Bajekal said, “Pacific Island markets continue to grow. The largest of them, Papua New Guinea, is still relatively untapped.”

The company has spared no effort and expense in building the new state-of-the-art facility, financed by a mix of debt and equity. Describing its technical aspects Mr Bajekal said, “It will be a very modern factory with highly sophisticated equipment. As opposed to sourcing all machines from one single manufacturer or origin, we have chosen the best-in-class for each type of machine and you will therefore see machines from as far as Austria, Italy, Japan and USA.

The construction site is a hive of activity.
The construction site is a hive of activity.

“All this is being put together by a German engineer, which will give you an idea of the level of perfection we are seeking to achieve. It will have some types of machines that are very new to this region, e.g., spiral cooling conveyors, fully automated ingredient mixers that can add even minute levels of ingredients, etc.”

The floor area of the factory — which will be operated by Bakery Company (Fiji) Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of FMF Foods — is an impressive 5,000sq m – and that’s only the first phase. “The factory is being designed in a manner that provides for expansion by an equal amount of area when the need arises,” Mr Bajekal says.

Speaking of the general outlook for exports regionally, Mr Bajekal said the Australian market had “slackened”. As for New Zealand, he says the market is “More accepting and less cutthroat than the Australian market albeit much smaller in size. Our sales in NZ have been lower than the potential NZ presents – this is largely because we have been forced to strike the delicate balance between a prudent credit outlay and uninhibited growth.”

FMF Foods is keen to tap the potential it sees in New Zealand. “We are looking to increase the presence of our own brands in NZ over the next couple of years,” Mr Bajekal adds.

Though the devastation of the recent Cyclone Winston, the fiercest cyclone to have hit the South Pacific region ever, spared FMF Foods’ infrastructure, the company, like all other businesses in Fiji is feeling the effects of the cyclone’s aftermath.

“Thankfully Suva, where our operations are concentrated, was spared of any serious devastation. That said, our markets were badly affected, especially in the west and north. The relief supplies given out by the government and many other agencies has meant that people have not had to buy essential staples since these were part of the relief handouts.”

Meanwhile, FMF Foods is clearly betting big on the potential that the Pacific Islands market collectively offers over the coming years. “PNG is sluggish at the moment owing to its economy and foreign exchange issues, but this is clearly the market with most potential,” says Mr Bajekal. “Melanesia as a whole is growing well, as is Micronesia.”

The new factory is scheduled to start production by the end of this year and is expected to create a couple of hundred job opportunities.

For more information email Dev Nadkarni, Marketing & Communications PT&I NZ: dev.n@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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