17 May 2004

US military begins buying locally produced goods in Marshall Islands

7:14 am on 17 May 2004

The United States military in the Marshall Islands has begun buying locally-produced goods.

It's the first time such sales have been made in the forty years the US army's been testing missiles in the islands.

Last week a business in Majuro sold a container of bottled water to the Army base at Kwajalein Atoll.

The chief financial officer of Robert Reimers Enterprises, Phil Marshall, describes the shipment of his company's water to the Army base as a 'monumental' action, that took months of work to negotiate through a cumbersome bureaucracy.

Mr Marshall says that despite many promises from top Army officials about their interest to buy local products, there was little progress until officers worked out all of the numerous bureaucratic details that had held up Majuro exports from starting earlier.

In addition to the water, two other Marshall Islands firms have shipped out locally-made music CDs, T-shirts, some coconut oil soap, and sundries such as lighters.

However there are now risks that demand from the base will outstrip supply.

The Tobolar Copra Processing Plant has not been able to deliver on coconut oil soap and lotion orders from Kwajalein, and local business people are concerned that the plant's attitude is giving a bad reputation to businesses in Majuro.