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Jimmy 'The Garbage Man'
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10 January 2013

Losing his mother at the tender age of six and dropping out of school in
Class Seven did not deter Jimmy Pickering Qalovaki from achieving his
dream of being a successful businessman. 

“It was through hard work, patience and God’s grace that I was able to
make it to where I ‘am today,” said Jimmy, the proud Director and owner
of Island Tropical Forest – a timber exporting company based in Veisari
outside Suva. 

Nicknamed ‘the Garbage Man’ by his colleagues in the timber industry
for the nature of his business as Jimmy only deals with ‘garbage’ or left
overs of mahogany from areas that have been logged out, Jimmy is a true
opportunist. 

“When the cutting of mahogany is completed in one area then it’s my
turn to come in and collect the waste mahogany that has been left behind
and whenever I come around they would say here comes Jimmy ‘the
Garbage Man’ because I clean up the left overs,” said Jimmy.

Jimmy hails from Salia, Nayau in the Lau Group and is the only I-Taukei
miller in Fiji. He is now exporting his products straight to China trading
with the Zhuan Xin Teakwood Manufacturing Co. Ltd. However,
Jimmy’s success only came about through his sheer hard work and
determination against all odds. 

“I gave up my education to give the chance to my other siblings being the
eldest male and I had to assist my dad in looking after the family.” 

His first employment was as a garden boy amongst a long list of other
odd jobs. He then ventured into fishing buying a fiberglass boat from his
savings starting his diving business. Commercial fishing followed soon
after and he was part of the management of the Great Pacific Seafood – a
company that was opened in the early 1990’s. 

“This is where I learnt a lot about business. Being a primary school drop-
out you would understand how difficult it was to be involved in
business.” 

Jimmy’s involvement with the fishing industry ended when the industry
suffered in 2002. “In 2003 Fiji Hardwood Corporation Ltd (FHCL)
started cutting mahogany logs and I took this opportunity and ventured in
to the timber industry. I sought advice from FHCL and they encouraged
me to go ahead with my business because I wanted to buy waste logs
from them.”

“I’m utilizing waste mahogany wood which is 0.9m in thickness with
varying lengths. This is very good because it maximizes the use of trees
that have been cut to not only generate money but also employment. I
didn’t want to deal with logs but I opted with the wastes because when
you cut a tree about 40% is used and the remaining 60% is waste and
simple mathematics would suggest that they are more wastes so more
business for me.” 

Jimmy won the 2006 Exporter of the Year Award and what was supposed
to be a stepping stone to greater things instead took the opposite turn
when local businesses that he relied on for hiring machinery began to
close their doors on him. 

“In 2007, I couldn’t cut any timber. So I went to China to purchase my
own mill and likewise look for possible buyers to buy my products. I was
also able to acquire this 20 acres piece of freehold land in Veisari for my
mill.” 

“I didn’t have much capital because if my purchases so a friend of mine
told me to try Fiji Development Bank. I thank the bank for their financial
assistance which made it possible for me to build the shed for the mill,
electricity and working capital.”

Jimmy was assisted under Reserve Bank of Fiji’s Import Substitution and
Export Finance Facility (ISEFF) administered through FDB. The ISEFF
is targeted to assist exporters and large scale agricultural farming
businesses to borrow at a concessional rate from Commercial Banks including FDB and other licensed credit institutions. ISEFF is aimed at
Export Finance – advance the competitiveness and ensure the availability
of credit to the export sector and; Import Substitution - promote
commercial agricultural production; advance the competitiveness of local
agricultural produce and to assist the reduction of imports on agricultural
products.

This facility is available Farmers, Sole Traders, Partnerships, Private or
Limited liability companies, Co-operatives. The purpose of the loan is to
provide working capital needs such as: purchase of raw materials; stock;
licensing requirements for export and transportation; for export
consignments and contractual transportation; storage and packing costs
and; purchase of plant and machinery, farm vehicles.

Early this year the mill was fully operational with the new machines in
place and the first load of 10 containers gone to China in mid-August. 

 “My contract states that I need to produce 10 containers minimum per
month and maximum is up to 200 containers. My buyer is willing to buy
right down to 0.35 cubic meters which means I can utilize more wastes. I
have 42 people working for me and for a small operation this is quite a
big number and I’m looking forward to expanding so I can increase my
quantity.” 

The advantage that Jimmy has is that he has an official from his Chinese
buyer present at the site who inspects all of the products before they arepacked for export. This ensures that there are no rejects and that all the
timbers are sure money makers. 

Jimmy sure puts a whole new meaning to garbage disposal being the
opportunist that he is.  


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