Barker on issues with rice market

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By MARK HAIHUIE
INSTITUTE of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker, pictured, says plans to restructure the rice market should consider competition issues in a balanced manner for domestic growers and companies which import it.
Barker was responding to a recent explanation by Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Benny Allan on the delay of the Central Province Rice Project to be operated by Naime Agro Limited.
“This proposal of Naime’s has always appeared to be an exercise in securing a State-endorsed monopoly or near monopoly over rice sales,” he said.
“PNG needs a competitive market for rice and other staples as an essential part of its National Food Security Policy, as well as overall competition and macro-economic policy.
“But it also needs to provide support to those producing and marketing all staple foods, notably through improving national infrastructure to make it easier and more reliable for producers and traders to bring root crops and domestically-grown rice to the market.”
Barker said there was a range of other measures to improve the
business environment for all agricultural production, marketing and processing in PNG, as highlighted in the recent National Agricultural Summit.
“It’s long been considered that the Naime proposal has largely been about trying to make money from a trading monopoly or near monopoly, rather than producing and trading domestically grown rice,” he said.
“But they should be welcomed to participate in the trade on a competitive basis, and investing in production – but not at the expense of PNG consumers, through higher prices generated by protective import duties and restrictions on competition.”
Barker said the credibility of the Naime Agro Industries Limited and the reputation of a particular principal owner should be a point of concern for the authorities.

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