The National – Thursday, February 17, 2011
THE PNG Growers Association, on behalf of cocoa farmers whose produce were damaged by the cocoa pod borer insect, has joined the Rural Industries Council (RIC) in a call to investigate the grant of K10.9 million to Teariki Holdings Ltd (THL).
THL is owned by former chief executive of PNG Cocoa Board Lauatu Tautea, who could have access to huge funds that could have been channelled to his own cocoa business, according to RIC chairman Brown Bai.
On the other hand, the cocoa industry had requested for the same amount of K10.9 million from the Department of National Planning to fight the cocoa pod borers in their plantations but was denied.
The growers said the cocoa pod borer devastated farmers’ income over the last two years and the fund was needed to help farmers recover lost production.
The association said many fermentaries could not be operated as there was no cocoa, and kiln pipes and flue pipes could not be replaced, causing many cocoa block owners to suffer massive losses, and therefore could not meet financial obligations.
This was especially when it was time to pay school fees and many cocoa farmers could not meet the expenses.
“How can the CEO of the cocoa industry turn his back on the industry that is so important to 13 provinces and approximately one million people?” Bai said.