Group claims rubber firm failed to pay farmers

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday 08th November 2011

PEOPLE in Kiunga have raised concerns over North Fly Rubber Ltd (NFRL) receiving a substantial amount of money from the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program.
Betty Wine, a representative of the non-government organisation Women in Mining, said NFRL had received a K20 million subsidy from the programme.
She said rubber growers were paid only K5 million from that and people wanted to know where the rest of the money had gone to.
She said NFRL chairman and businessman, Warren Dutton had been vocal over SABLs, particularly Independent Timbers and Stevedoring (IT & S) PNG Ltd, a foreign logging company that hoped to construct a road linking Western and Central, but had not acquired an environmental permit and had not been paying rubber growers for cutting down their trees.
She said apart from these issues another big concern for locals was the bad smell produced by the fumes given off at the processing plant outside Kiunga town.
Dutton confirmed the company would benefit from the subsidy.
He said the subsidy was worth close to K40 million that the company would receive over a 10-year period to develop the rubber industry in Agrim, Suki and Balimo.
PNGSDP agriculture programme manager Potaisa Hombunake said the PNGSDP had approved K26.9 million for rubber development in the Agrim, Suki and Balimo areas and had included a sustenance loan worth K12.7 million for growers in these areas for the period until the rubbers trees matured.
He said the aim of subsidising rubber growers was to develop the 2,800ha of land, which would bring rubber producing areas to 10,000ha.
Hombunake said when all these rubber trees were planted and producing the industry would become sustainable.
He said the project was expected to be implemented from 2012-20 and the funding to North Fly Rubber included building infrastructure and staff to deliver the project and to subsidise freight costs.
In response to concerns over North Fly Rubber not paying growers for cutting their trees, Dutton said the company was not paying growers for cutting down trees because the growers chose to cut the trees on their land to plant a cash crop that was probably worth three times the original tree.
“I have not attacked IT & S.
“I understand why people have been forced to look elsewhere for development.
“I have been vocal because the Lands Department has committed a crime.
“It is fraudulently giving licences to people.”
He said North Fly Rubber had been successful because it had been transparent since its inception and was more focused on providing an opportunity for local people to help themselves through their own sweat equity.
“For so long there has been a misconception. People believe that I am benefiting from the profits of NFRL, however the reality is I only have one share in this venture, while over 366,963 shares belong to the growers themselves.”
NFRL managing director Boo Kui Chew said the company would improve its infrastructure since the number of rubber growers had grown and production at the plant had doubled.
He said the rubber itself – not bad chemicals – caused the bad stench when it was being blown with dry air.