|Q1. Could you briefly
outline the historical background of the Nestle
Group in Fiji?
A2. Nestle has a long and proud history operating
in Fiji. We started with a sales office, then commenced
manufacturing MAGGI 2-minute noodles in Lami factory
in 1984. In 1991, we took an equity stake in a local
company, Maganlal Jiwa & Sons Ltd, manufacturing
sugar confectionery and snack food. We then established
a Trading operating and in 2001 invested over F$10m
to expand our manufacturing operation in Ba. Today
we employ over 300 local staff with an invested
capital over $F 35m.
Q2. How long have you been in Fiji and what is your
opinion so far of the business climate in the country?
A2. I have been doing business with Fiji for
over 23 years. The business climate today in Fiji
is the best I have known it to be in spite of the
events of the past. The current government is highly
proactive in promoting and giving incentives to
foreign investors. They have been very supportive
of foreign investment which is reflected in the
progress Nestle has made.
Q3. What are the main challenges you have to
face here and what are the main objectives you
have set for yourself?
A3. The major challenge going forward is the
development of our people in Fiji. This has been
the focus for Nestle. As a result of the coups,
skilled management staff, mostly Indo-Fijians, started
leaving Fiji. The government is aware of this, and
is supportive in the employment of expatriate managers
as an interim measure during the training and development
of local staff to takeover these positions.
Q4. Nestle recently relocated a factory from
Auckland to Fiji, why? What are the benefits that
Nestle has received from this relocation?
A4. We had a factory in NZ operating at 30%
capacity and a factory in Lami Fiji also operating
around the same level. Supported by the Fiji government's
incentive scheme it made sense to consolidate the
two factories into an expanded Ba site in Fiji.
The result was one large cost efficient factory
operating at high capacity manufacturing product
for both local and export markets.
Q5. What opportunities does Nestle see in
expanding operations in Fiji?
A5. The opportunity from expansion of our Fiji
operation is to have a central operation in the
Pacific for us to export to the other Islands that
do not have sufficient population to justify local
manufacture. Fiji for Nestle is like an economic
hub supplying our customers in the Pacific.
Q6. You export your products to the Pacific
region, what is the importance of exports through
the plants in Ba and in Lami for Nestlé's
operation in Fiji?
A6. Exports account for over 50% of production.
We export all over the Pacific including Australia,
NZ, PNG, Tahiti, New Caledonia and to all the smaller
Islands like Tonga and Samoa.
| Q7. Why would you
say Fiji is the crossroad of the Pacific, the economic
hub of the Pacific?
A7. Fiji is uniquely positioned geographically
in the center of the Pacific region. Given the shipping
infrastructure it makes economic sense to export
from Fiji to the other Islands. The routes are cost
competitive and there is sufficient shipping frequency
to ensure continuous supply.
Q8. Fiji has a negative reputation among foreign
investors and now it needs to increase investments
from 11% to 25% of GDP. Fiji competes with many
other countries for FDI. How does the example
of Nestle help changing this perception among
the International Business community?
A8. Nestle is able to work in most countries
around the world regardless the political system.
Our objective is to develop our business and create
jobs in that country, we do not get involved in
politics. We have managed to be successful keeping
to this principle. We believe it is primarily the
government's responsibility to promote Fiji to the
International Business Community, however Nestle
like other businesses, is willing to support the
government and play our part, since foreign investment
is good for business and the country, it creates
jobs and consumer demand. On request by the government
I have spoken at business council forums about Nestlé's
success in Fiji. By telling our story, it demonstrates
to potential investors that it can be done.
Q9. Nestlé worldwide process over 100
thousand tons of sugar annually. What is the relation
of Nestlé with the Fiji Sugar Industry?
A9. We are one of the major customers of the
local Fiji sugar industry. It is in our interest
to source local raw materials in the country where
we operate, in addition to the economic benefits
of proximity and cost, we help create and sustain
jobs in that industry and build a strong sense of
community spirit as many of our employees at the
factory have family and friends working on the farms.
It is good for the country and good for Nestlé.
Q10. What would be your final message to our
decision making audience in order to restore confidence?
A10. My final message would be to have the courage
to look beyond the politics of a country and at
the higher potential returns that can be achieved.
Nestlé is just one example of successful
foreign investment in Fiji, there are also many
other success stories in Fiji that are not mentioned
in this interview. Add to this the current government
incentive schemes for foreign investment and it
is worth considering the opportunities in Fiji.
Q11. Mr. Gan, Could you tell us a little bit more
about your personal background?
A11. I have been with Nestlé since May
1960. I worked in Malaysia and Singapore for 18
and a half years and in Nestlé Pacific Islands,
out off Sydney. I have been responsible for the
development of Nestlé's business since 1980,
the markets comprising of French Polynesia, East
and west Papua New Guinea, and all the islands state
in between. I have taken up Australian citizenship
many years ago and regard Australia as my home although
I was born in Malaysia.
Winne cannot be held responsible for unedited