RSE joint venture showcased at pre-SIDS event
In a first for the Pacific, an employer and a worker of New Zealand’s successful RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme established the first ever joint venture of its kind in the region earlier this year.<!--more-->
New Zealand agribusiness Vinepower’s partners Jono Bushell and Jason Kennard teamed up with RSE worker Seth Karua to form the Tanna Famas Company (Tanna Farmers Company). The JV was established on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu.
Mr Bushell, Mr Kennard and Mr Karua presented their successful and noteworthy initiative at the pre-SIDS Private Sector Partnerships Forum in Apia on August 30. The initiative was also showcased at the third Seasonal Workers Programme Conference hosted by the Australian Government on the Gold Coast last month. A number of Pacific Island representatives, including those from Samoa, had attended the conference.
The new joint venture enterprise is the culmination of a relationship that began in 2009, when Mr Bushell visited Vanuatu as a delegate of the <strong>Pacific Islands Trade & Invest</strong> (<b>PT&I</b>) inward investment mission into the country. “There’s something about Vanuatu I loved the first time I was there and I wanted to do something there,” says Mr Bushell. Vinepower today employs 250 workers from the RSE scheme many of whom are from Vanuatu.
The company employed its first batch of seasonal workers from Vanuatu and Seth Karua was one of them. Mr Bushell noticed that Seth was an experienced farmer, well aware of the world having lived in the United Kingdom for a few years. As their work relationship developed, the two began to talk business and soon the seed of an idea for Tanna Famas Company was born.
Tanna Famas contract grows coffee for Tanna Coffee over seven hectares and manufactures its own organic coconut oil as its primary business. Many of the workers employed at the farm are returned seasonal workers. “Workers benefit from the work ethic and professionalism that RSE work has taught them in New Zealand,” Mr Bushell says. The company hopes to market coffee green beans to New Zealand in the near future.
The company also has begun producing high quality coconut oil, which is sold locally. Mr Bushell says the company is close to finalising an arrangement for niche markets in New Zealand.
<strong>Pacific Islands Trade & Invest</strong> (<b>PT&I</b>) New Zealand offices, which has been associated with the RSE scheme since inception, and Vanuatu’s Commissioner of Labour have together assisted in the formation of the JV. <b>PT&I</b> NZ Head of Investments and Acting Trade Commissioner Manuel Valdez and Vanuatu Labour Commissioner Lionel Kaluat were both present at the formation of the company in Tanna.
<b>PT&I</b> regularly conducts financial literacy seminars for RSE workers in New Zealand, in which they are given tips on wisely transferring money, saving and investing. “It is heartening to see a RSE worker put not only his capital but also the skills he has learned in New Zealand into a JV with his own employer in his native country,” Mr Manuel Valdez, Head of Investments and Acting Trade Commissioner <b>PT&I</b> NZ says.