By MALUM NALU
FOR many years, life has been a struggle for the people of oil palm-rich Sarakolok, West New Britain.
The lack of a bridge over a nearby river has meant that oil palm trucks could not come in to buy their fresh fruit bunches.
They have had to carry their harvest by hand or using wheelbarrows to earn money.
That is now a thing of the past.
A new Bailey bridge, funded by Oil Palm Industry Corporation (OPIC) in collaboration with the West New Britain Provincial Government at a cost of K750, 000, will enable trucks to come in and buy their produce after many years of being without a bridge and carrying their produce to market.
The bridge also comes under Prime Minister James Marape’s ‘Connect PNG’ programme.
OPIC general secretary Kepson Pupita on Sunday visited the completed bridge and talked to local people.
OPIC is contributing to the Government’s flagship ‘Connect PNG’ infrastructure development programme in oil palm-growing areas of West New Britain, New Ireland, Northern and Milne Bay.
The importance of the oil palm industry in the country cannot be downplayed.
The finished product- palm oil – is Papua New Guinea’s biggest agriculture export earner, generating on average K1.2 billion annually.
Export revenue from palm oil is equivalent to about 47 per cent of PNG’s total agriculture exports.
OPIC estimates that about 20, 049 households are engaged in oil palm cultivation to generate incomes to sustain their livelihoods.
The big milling companies, such as New Britain Palm Oil Ltd (NBPOL) and Hargy provide formal employment to hundreds of PNG people.
Smallholder farmers engaged in oil palm cultivation generate, on average, K450 million annually through the sale of their fresh fruit bunches (FFB).
These farmers, whose FFB levies fund OPIC, must be supported.
That is why roads, bridges, culverts and other infrastructure are being built and maintained by OPIC as part of its mandate to promote and encourage increased productivity of oil palm.
The K65 million Smallholder Road Programme (2018-2022) is the key Medium-Term Development Plan (MTDP) investment initiated in 2018 to rehabilitate and upgrade the worst portions of smallholder oil palm roads in these provinces.
Of this amount, K27 million – 42 per cent – has been invested from 2018 to 2021.
A total 200km of roads was set to be rehabilitated as per MTDP 3, with OPIC rehabilitating 196km (98 per cent)from 2018 to 2021.
In West New Britain, particularly around Hoskins, there are nine major road rehabilitation projects of Works with a contract value of K2.7 million in 2020 (which have increased over last 12 months):
• Silanga Road – 0.3km (K119, 742);
• Morokea Road No. 8 – 0.2km (K139, 634);
• Poi Road No. 6 – 0.3km (K134, 926);
• Buvussi Road – 8.2km (K373,428);
• Silanga Section 2 Road 4 – 5.6km (K471,119.30);
• Vovosi Road – 4.5km (K373,842.92);
• Poi Road – 3km (K481,602);
• Tamba Road – 5km (K219,048.55); and bridge construction (K347,730).
- Malum Nalu works with the Office of the Prime Minister