The National, Thursday February 13th, 2014
MILNE Bay Governor Titus Philemon has assured palm oil producer, Milne Bay Estates the provincial government will support and help in growing the industry.
Philemon, accompanied by a large contingent of senior provincial public servants, visited the estate last Friday.
He said the provincial government would give particular attention to helping the smallholder growers to develop their blocks.
Company officials said smallholder growers were seriously hampered by a lack of funds to plant more oil palm trees and improve infrastructure such as roads to move their harvest to the mill.
There are about 840 smallholder growers who supply to the estate’s mill about 21 tonnes of fresh fruit produce yearly from about 1,800 hectares of oil palm trees.
The company helps the smallholders to develop their farms, does extension work, training and provides other technical assistance.
It helps with transporting harvested fresh fruit from their blocks to the mill.
Smallholder manager James Elias said the farmers were keen to increase the size of their blocks but funding was a major hindrance.
The farmers have to buy seedlings from the estates and when fruits are harvested, they pay contractors to move the produce to the mill.
“Smallholders are finding it difficult. They are not able to expand their blocks and the road conditions are causing problems when they try to move fresh fruits to the mill,” Elias said.
Milne Bay Estates general manager Rob Nicholls stressed the importance of the small holders to the company’s operations.
“The more smallholders produce, the more we benefit,” Nicholls said.