By MALUM NALU
REMOTE South Bougainville in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville received a major boost on Friday, May 14, 2021, with the granting of a cocoa export license to Busiba -South Bougainville Corporation Ltd, the business arm of the South Bougainville District Development Authority (DDA).This will enable South Bougainville – Bougainville’s major cocoa producer – to start exporting cocoa and help set Bougainville on the path to economic independence.Bougainville last year produced 12,000 tonnes of Papua New Guinea’s total 44,000 tonnes – with about 6,000 tonnes coming from South Bougainville.Granting of the license comes on the back of price support to South Bougainville by the Marape Government – which will see farmers receive K3 per kg of wet beans.The license was presented to Busiba by Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Simon and PNG Cocoa Board CEO Boto Gaupu, to Busiba Chairman Joshua Bakirie and South Bougainville MP and Communications and Information Technology Minister Timothy Masiu, in front of an appreciative crowd in Buin.Simon also presented K200,000 on behalf of the Marape Government to Busiba to start buying cocoa, K20,000 for freight, and later opened the Busiba Cocoa Shed with Bougainville Minister for Primary Industries and prominent cocoa advocate and woman leader Yolande Geraldine Paul.Present were South Bougainville leaders, Livestock Development Corporation Managing Director Terry Koim, Oil Palm Industry Corporation General Secretary Kepson Pupita, and senior officers of the PNG Cocoa Board Simon said South Bougainville was well-organised, had set up its own buying and exporting company, and was granted the license.“We (Marape Government) will support those who work,” he said.“South Bougainville has set up its own company, is ready to buy cocoa, and asked for an export license. We have brought that export license with us today with the seed money to start buying cocoa.”Simon also announced the good news to the people of South Bougainville that the Marape Government, through PNG Cocoa Board, was now rolling out price support at selected buying points.He said the quality of South Bougainville cocoa was well-known and was even used to produce Queen Emma Chocolate by Paradise Foods.
“I urge you all to continuing producing better quality cocoa than other areas,” Simon said.“The Marape Government will continue supporting you people of South Bougainville, we will work with you people in the villages.”Simon said similar support would be given copra, the other major agricultural commodity in South Bougainville, as well as others like coffee.He said the other commodity boards would be set up in South Bougainville.PNG Cocoa Board CEO Gaupu wants to see more collaboration with district development authorities (DDAs) to grow the industry in the country.“I think that we should work together,” Gaupu told the crowd at Buin.“Cocoa Board alone cannot do it. That is why we are forming partnerships with DDAs in the whole country.“This means that we must share resources, share capacities, technical knowledge and experiences.“The MOAs (memoranda-of-agreement) we sign are kina-for-kina.“When the Cocoa Boards puts K1, DDAs put K1 – that’s how we have been operating.”Gaupu thanked the Government “which is very keen and is supporting agriculture big time”.“
The Marape Government has supported us through cocoa nurseries, cocoa freight subsidy and now price support,” he said.“I can tell you that price support has not been rolled throughout the whole of Bougainville yet, however, in South Bougainville we are privileged because the MP (Masiu) has been continuously and persistently calling on the Cocoa Board to come and work here.“We have now rolled out price support in four districts in South Bougainville, with three implementing it already, with price support of K3 per kg of wet beans to farmers.“This is an initiative of the Marape Government through the Minister for Agriculture, which we are rolling out throughout the country.”Gaupu commended Masiu for the Busiba initiative.“We believe that Busiba is a one-stop shop kind of thing where all services will be provided like extension, and partnerships,” he said.“If we work together, we can attract assistance from various sources. This is a right step that we are taking.”The sky is the limit for cocoa production in South Bougainville, says Masiu.Masiu, to get the ball rolling in cocoa production, announced a K100 bonanza on top of the normal K400 per 60kg bag.“The sky is the limit, my people,” he told an excited crowd.“We will move, we will progress. I am happy that your company (Busiba) has been established and urge you to sell your cocoa to them.“Sell your cocoa to Busiba.
“I have already given instructions to Busiba that if they are buying a bag of cocoa for K400, Busiba must buy it for K500. This is your bonus for your sweat equity, your hard work, so you must go back and work hard in your cocoa garden.”Masiu said South Bougainville would work closely with the PNG Cocoa Board in developing the industry there.“We must work hard because this is the only time that we have had such an opportunity,” he said.“If we don’t work properly, we will never get there.”Masiu told his people that they had been “slaves” for such a long time.“Now is the time to come out of this bondage,” he said.“Now is the time to come out of the slavery we have been under, whereby we worked hard, and sold our cocoa to other people. We don’t know where they are taking our cocoa.“They might take our cocoa and pack it as from somewhere else…these things happen.“We want to sell quality cocoa from South Bougainville so people can taste South Bougainville, taste the soil of South Bougainville, because our soil is so rich.“When Busiba opens for business, please go and sell your cocoa to them, sell your cocoa to your own company.
“People are selling their cocoa to outside companies, who don’t even have an office here.“The headquarters of Busiba is in Buin Town, not in other places.“We can buy cocoa from Tinputz, from Wakunai, or whereever, but our headquarters will be in Buin town.”
- Malum Nalu works with the Prime Minister’s Office.