THE members of copra producing co-operative societies in Papua New Guina have called on the Government to honour its pledge and buy the Coconut Oil Production Madang Ltd (COPM) based in Madang.
Madang Co-operative Societies Association chairman Peter Muriki said this would show definitive support for national ownership of a downstream processing facility.
The call from the national farmers followed indications from the New Zealand owner – Coconut Oil Sales Ltd – to sell the mill to them as first-choice customers.
According to information made available by the co-operative society unit, the mill, which comes with a shipping service COPM Shipping Ltd, is on sale and they are given preferred option.
COPM Shipping owns two barges – mv Copra Trader and mv Coconut Trader – which are primarily used to transport copra from the districts and neighbouring provinces to the mill in Madang.
Mr Muriki said the mill, when owned by the farmers through their respective co-operative societies, would greatly benefit them as a downstream processing facility and trigger more interest among the copra farmers.
He said, at present, farmers only depended on the sale of their raw copra to exporters and the COPM and once they take ownership of the mill, it would increase their income through dividends as well.
Mr Muriki said the farmers were concerned that while the Government had yet to honour its pledge, the time frame given by the New Zealand owner for a private sale to the cooperative societies unit had lapsed and a public sale notice had gone out in the newspapers.
Mr Muriki also called on Madang Governor Sir Arnold Amet and other governors from the copra producing provinces to support the co-operatives by putting pressure on the National Government to honour its commitment as soon as possible under its downstream processing and co-operative societies revitalisation policies.
The mill produces quality coconut oil and exports to Europe and coconut meal (stock feed) to Australia.
It is currently processing 2,000 metric tonnes of copra a month, operating at 40% of its capacity.
This translates to 24,000mt of copra being processed per annum out of which 60%t of the product is coconut oil and 33% coconut meal (stock feed).
When in full capacity, the COPM can process 4,800mt per month, or 58,000mt annually.
After acquiring the mill from Elan Trading in 2005, the New Zealand owner invested in and installed additional facilities including the two barges.
It also installed a delivery conveyor belt from the wharf to the mill, a copra mill, dryer, a 1,000mt storage tank and installed internal delivery auger system and copra meal bagging system, water purification equipment for the boiler, among others.
The mill was once owned by the State-owned Copra Marketing Board (CMB), the predecessor of Kopra Indastri Koperesin (KIK).