9 Apr 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

5:18 pm on 9 April 2021

Fiji rice farmers called on to improve production, US Peace Corp to return to Vanuatu and arrests in Solomon Islands after village clashes.

Raw white rice and wooden spoon in weave basket on sack background.

Photo: 123rf.com

Fiji rice farmers called on to improve production

Fiji rice farmers have been called on by the government to double production over the next 12 months.

About 140 farmers in three rice farming co-operatives in the Northern Division have this week received rice harvesters from the Ministry of Agriculture.

At the handover ceremony the Agriculture Minister Mahendra Reddy told the farmers there is "there is a massive potential for rice production in your areas."

He said there is a lot of land lying idle that could be planted, helping to reduce the hefty bill Fiji faces for importing rice.

PNG's Porgera gold mine set to reopen

The Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea is on the verge of reopening.

The Canada-based miner Barrick Gold says it's about to finalise an agreement with the PNG government to reopen the gold mine.

Porgera has been closed for almost a year while the Government sought to negotiate better benefits from the mine.

Barrick's lease over the lucrative Enga province mine expired last April, and the government refused to extend it.

Although the government had wanted the mine to be PNG operated, Prime Minister James Marape appears to have reached a compromise.

Mining Technology reports the new agreement will see a joint venture between Barrick Niugini and PNG Government to operate the mine.

It is subject to increased ownership for PNG and a fair sharing of economic benefits.

Barrick Niugini Ltd, owned by Barrick Gold and China-based Zijin Mining, will continue as the operator of the mine.

US Peace Corp to return to Vanuatu

United States Peace Corps volunteers will be returning to Vanuatu.

Vanuatu's Daily Post reported this was confirmed by the US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Erin Elizabeth Mckee.

She said the Vanuatu Country Director for the Peace Corps, Penny Alexander, was due to finish her quarantine stint in Port Vila this week after undergoing mandatory testing for Covid-19.

Her arrival was described as the first key step for the Peace Corps to start processing the return of its volunteers to Vanuatu.

Peace Corps volunteers assisted communities and government departments in the areas of health, technology and education.

However US Peace Corps around the world were ordered home by headquarters in Washington after the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic early last year.

Arrests in Solomon Islands after village clashes

Five people have been arrested in Solomon Islands after clashes among groups from different villages on Guadalcanal led to arson.

The Solomons police say a group from Tuebala Village had gone to Ghavagha Village to ask compensation for an assault.

But a rival group from Ghavagha allegedly attacked this group, chased them back to their village and allegedly burnt down nine dwellings and six kitchins.

The five suspects are being held in a cell at the Tetere police station.

Another Covid-19 case in Fiji quarantine

Fiji has recorded a new border quarantine case of Covid-19.

The Fiji Health Ministry says a 56-year-old woman who arrived in the country last month had travelled to Fiji from Los Angeles on March 25.

The ministry said she had returned a weak positive test result during routine testing while undergoing 14-day quarantine at a border quarantine facility in Nadi.

It said a weak positive test result indicates there was little viral material in the sample.

Fiji now has had 68 Covid cases with two active cases and two deaths reported.

Tuvalu gets vaccine

Tuvalu is the latest country in the Pacific region to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, with 4800 doses of Astrazeneca arriving in the islands.

Tuvalu is the second country in the region to receive vaccines to cover 20 percent of the population under the Covax Facility.

The World Health Organisation initiative aims to offer a reliable supply of vaccines for Pacific countries like Tuvalu, who do not have direct access to manufacturers