New processing factory to benefit rubber farmers


RUBBER farmers in the Community Mine Continuation Agreement areas in Western will benefit from a planned processing factory, thanks to the Ok Tedi Development Foundation.
The ground-breaking ceremony was held at Aiambak, in Middle Fly district, on Sept 22.
The Aiambak factory is in line with OTDF’s strategic direction 2016-2020 which aims to put money in the pockets of rubber, rice, and eaglewood farmers under its livelihood development package programme.
The programme is to ensure that villagers could sustain themselves now and after the closure of the Ok Tedi mine when compensation payments cease.
The foundation had taken pro-active steps in establishing an agri-business company owned by the CMCA primary producers.
It also facilitated the purchasing of cup lump rubber from farmers in North Fly, Middle Fly and Lake Murray through their agent Lotic Bige Limited since January.
So far, 59 tonnes have been exported to Singapore and Malaysia.
The factory will produce ribbed smoked sheet rubber which promotes the production of rolled sheets by farmers, then the smoking of the sheets, grading, packing and exporting.
It has a higher value on the international market than cup lump. It is one step away from a tyre re-treading factory.
Aiambak is a strategic, central location to ensure farmers in remote Middle and South Fly districts have a market to sell their rubber.
OTDF chief executive Ian Middleton is optimistic that downriver farmers will greatly benefit given that they now have an alternate, higher-value option for selling their rubber.
He said it was important to have the road from Aiambak to Lake Murray constructed as it would provide easy access to the people.
“Gold and copper do not grow on trees like rubber and eaglewood. Once it is harvested, it’s gone,” he said.
“Rubber will continue to produce every day for 40 years. Once you start tapping your trees, the money will flow. You no longer need to rely on cash compensation. You just need to work hard, to sweat in your blocks and OTDF will support you to change your life and put money in your pocket every week.”
Department of Agriculture and Livestock deputy secretary Stephen Mombi said: “We have to transform the agriculture sector to a climate–smart and business-orientated powerhouse by commercialising the subsistence sector and building a more modern and competitive industry.
“The government is expected to provide budget support for the sector next year so that we can in turn support OTDF given the growing national interests in rubber.”

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