THE PNG Oil Palm Producers Association has rubbished a National Research Institute claim that child labour is widespread in the agriculture sector, especially in the plantations.
Chairman Brown Bai said PNG was a signatory to the UN Convention on children’s rights and all businesses in the country were obliged to adhere to it.
“Our traditional societies are agricultural oriented and what is perceived to be traditional norm and practice where children are seen to be helping out with domestic farm work cannot be perceived as child labour,” Mr Bai said.
He said that as a member of the Roundtable Sustainable Oil Palm (RSPO), the PNG oil palm industry was required to abide by certain principles and criteria.
Amongst others, they state that:
*Children labour is not used;
*Children are not exposed to hazardous working conditions; and
*Work by children is acceptable on family farms, under adult supervision and not interfering with their education programmes.
Mr Bai, who is also chairman of the Rural Industries Council, said growers and milling companies could only employ workers above the minimum school-leaving age or who were at least 15 years old.
Family farms were however exempted from this, he said.
“Since the launched of RSPO certified oil palm in 2007, the industry has been challenged to meet the vigorous standards of the RSPO and it’s fully aware that failure to conform will have serious repercussions for PNG oil palm in the global market,” he added.
Mr Bai maintained that child labour or child exploitation did not exist within the agriculture sectors or in the oil palm plantations as implied and described the National Research Institute claim as “misleading”.
He said if issues of child labour were a concern for any sector of community or industry, they must be raised with the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations.