By MALUM NALU
MAJOR reforms to the agriculture sector are still awaiting legal clearance by Government, says Agriculture and Livestock Minister Tommy Tomscoll.
He said that after the release of the Fresh Produce Development Agency 2015 annual report in Port Moresby on Tuesday night.
The reforms come in the form of two bills – the Agriculture Investment Corporation Act 2015 and Agriculture Administration Adjustment Act 2015 – which were planned to have been introduced in Parliament this year.
Tomscoll was approached by The National to give an update on the reforms, however, he could only say: “It’s sitting with First Legislative Counsel.
“We need good legislative writers. This is taking too long.
The plan is that all agriculture boards in the country will be brought under an umbrella organisation known as Agriculture Investment Corporation (AIC) of Papua New Guinea through a new legislation to be introduced in Parliament.
The AIC will be established under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock using a model that is similar to Kumul Consolidated Holdings and State-owned enterprises.
Under this structure, all the existing and/or rationalised commodity boards will operate under the AIC, and will initially draw most of their funding requirements for capitalisation and agri-business development and innovation from the National Government via the AIC.
Agricultural reformer Dr Eric Omuru recently expressed concern about the slowness in getting the bills introduced in Parliament, with time fast running out before the 2017 general election.
However, Omuru – team leader of the implementation and advisory unit of the functional and expenditure review of agricultural boards and agencies – said all that might come to naught, with time running against passage of the bills and KCH itself planning to go into agriculture in a big way. Non-passage of the bills is also seen to be against the spirit of the Alotau Accord of 2012 to support agriculture development.
Omuru said 33 recommendations of his team were brought before Cabinet in 2014 with all of them being approved, and the two bills drafted.
“In terms of where the bills are, we take it that they have been cleared by the State-Solicitor’s Office,” he said.
Omuru said the Agriculture Administration Adjustment Act 2015 Bill had been approved by Cabinet and was before the First Legislative Counsel for comments, while the Agriculture Investment Corporation Act 2015 Bill had “somehow lost its way”.
“The last we heard is that the NEC has yet to deliberate on the (Agriculture Investment Corporation Act 2015) bill, so we can only wait and see what happens,” he said.
Omuru said the Government wanted agriculture reforms in the Alotau Accord of 2012 – for which the FER was set up – but had done little about it after the work was completed.
The team was set up in 2013 to undertake the review, with recommendations brought forward to Cabinet in 2014, including the fact that there has been no legislation governing agriculture for the last 40 years.
By MALUM NALU