PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
Visitors from Fiji met this week at The Englander restaurant in San Leandro to meet with Mangal’s Market. From left to right are Visoni Timote, Pauliasi Tuilau, Filipe Alifereti, Losalini Leweniqila, Robert Mangal (owner of Mangal’s Market in San Leandro), Uraia Waibuta, Reginald Mangal, Ronald Mangal, Jone Sovalawa, Michael Seitz, and Sefo Rauli.
By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times
Members of the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture came to San Leandro this week to meet their customers, boost sales, and learn more about import regulations in the United States.
The delegation from the island nation of 860,000 people arrived on Fiji Airways and met on Monday at The Englander restaurant and pub in San Leandro with Robert Mangal, owner of Mangal’s Market.
“The primary purpose of our visit is to see how well our produce is doing, see areas that need improvement, bottlenecks, and to meet with our distributors and retailers,” said Uraia Waibuta, acting permanent secretary of the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture.
Fiji exports root crops, breadfruit and other produce, and its famous Fiji water all around the world. Fiji produce that comes to the United States is mainly popular here on the West Coast.
Waibuta said his country’s exports to the United States amounted to about $174 million annually.
Mangal’s is one of Fiji’s chief distributers in the Bay Area, importing over 20 shipping containers of food from Fiji annually. Mangal’s sells food from Fiji at its store on East 14th Street and distributes goods to other markets in the area.
Fiji is an archipelago of some 333 islands in the South Pacific, though most of the population lives on two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The capitol and largest city, Suva, is on Viti Levu.
Fiji was formed by volcanos 150 million years ago and it’s been inhabited for about 3,000 years. Britain made Fiji a colony in 1874 but Fiji gained independence 1970 and was declared a republic in 1987.
The island nation has abundant forests and natural resources, and a tourism industry due to its tropical climate and beautiful beaches.
Fiji is known for having excellent soil and its produce being pure and free of chemicals, Mangal said.
Waibnuta said that one thing his group has learned on their visit to the United States is that it’s not just Pacific Islanders who are their customers, that people from the Caribbean and African Americans are buying Fiji products.
The delegation was heading to Los Angeles after visiting the Bay Area where they planned to meet with the United States Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs to keep up to date on import regulations in this country.