Fiji's industry is based primarily on processing of agricultural products, mainly sugarcane and coconut, and on mining and processing of gold and silver. Other major product groups are processed foods, and garments. In 2001 sugar production fell 14% to 293,000 cubic tons, well short of previous norms of close to 350,000 cubic tons. The government ascribes problems with sugar production to expiring land leases, poor mill performance, high incidence of cane burning, and cane transportation problems. Years of underinvestment in farms, sugar mills and power, water, and transportation infrastructure have resulted in declining quality as well as quantity. In February 2003 the Japanese rejected a shipment of Fiji sugar because of poor quality.
The gold industry suffered due to low world market prices (below $300 oz.) prevailing from late 1998 to mid-2002, but faces better prospects in the sharp rise to over $370 oz. in early 2003. Gold production is concentrated in the 66-year-old Vatukoula mine operated by Emperor Mines, which calculates that the mine will last another 10 or 15 year.
The garment industry in Fiji began in 1988, and in 2002 produced a record value of about $150 million. In 1996, there were at least 68 garment manufacturing factories operating in tax-free zones, earning $141 million. About a dozen factories were closed in 2001, with a loss of 5000 to 6000 jobs, but other operations were expanding. Garment industry exports, at $143 million for 2001, were down, however, due to disruptions in relations with customers from trade sanctions.
Overall, the value of merchandise trade declined about 9% in 2001, and is not expected to surpass the $557 million of 1997 or even the $532 million of 1999 until 2003. Tourism receipts were $228.9 million in 2001, an improvement on 2000, but still constrained by post-coup political uncertainties. Expensive power, lack of trained labor, and the limited local market have also inhibited industrial production. Overall, the value of manufacturing in Fiji, which had declined 6.2% in 2000, increased an estimated 11.5% in 2001, but is projected, by the IMF, to have increased only 1.5% in 2002, with non-sugar manufacturing down .9% in value.