Industry supports Connect PNG

A New Britain Palm Oil Ltd truck loading bunches of harvested oil palm fruit. – Picture borrowed.

OIL palm country, West New Britain, is seeing improved infrastructure in areas which grow this lucrative agriculture commodity, thanks to the Oil Palm Industry Corporation (OPIC).
OPIC is also contributing to the Marape Government’s flagship ‘Connect PNG’ infrastructure development programme in oil palm-growing areas of West New Britain, New Ireland, Northern and Milne Bay.
The importance of the oil palm industry in the country cannot be downplayed. The finished product – palm oil – is Papua New Guinea’s biggest agriculture export earner, generating on average K1.2 billion annually.
Export revenue from palm oil is equivalent to about 47 per cent of PNG’s total agriculture exports.
OPIC estimates that about 20,049 households are engaged in oil palm cultivation to generate income to sustain their livelihoods. The big milling companies, such as New Britain Palm Oil Ltd (NBPOL) and Hargy provide formal employment to hundreds of PNG people.
Smallholder farmers engaged in oil palm cultivation generate, on average, K450 million annually through sale of their fresh fruit bunches (FFB). These farmers, whose FFB levies fund OPIC, must be supported.
That is why roads, bridges, culverts and other infrastructure are being built and maintained by OPIC as part of its mandate to promote and encourage increased productivity of oil palm.
The K65 million Smallholder Road Programme (2018-2022) is the key Medium-Term Development Plan (MTDP) investment initiated in 2018 to rehabilitate and upgrade the worst portions of smallholder oil palm roads in these provinces. Of this amount, K27 million – 42 per cent – has been invested from 2018 to 2021.
A total 200km of roads was set to be rehabilitated as per MTDP 3, with OPIC rehabilitating 196km from 2018 to 2021 – 98 per cent. In West New Britain, particularly around Hoskins, there are nine major road rehabilitation projects under supervision of Department of Works with a contract value of K2.7 million in 2020 (which has increased over the last 12 months):
• Silanga Road – 0.3km (K119, 742);
• Morokea Road No. 8 – 0.2km (K139, 634);
• Poi Road No. 6 – 0.3km (K134, 926);
• Buvussi Road – 8.2km (K373,428);
• Silanga Section 2 Road 4 – 5.6km (K471,119.30);
• Vovosi Road – 4.5km (K373,842.92);
• Poi Road – 3km (K481,602);
• Tamba Road – 5km (K219,048.55); and
• Bridge construction (K347,730)

Smallholder block holders depend on good roads to sell their produce. – Picture borrowed.

Last Saturday was a big occasion as the local people of Lomo celebrated the opening of the Silanga Road, which has been a challenging task, given the soil conditions. OPIC’s Bruce Lisa, who supervises infrastructure projects around the country, said it was a hard job but oil palm growers in the area would reap the benefits.
“There was so much joy among the people of Lomo as the road was opened, as there was no existing road access,” he said.
“The road is now up to the standards required by the Department of Works. I want to thank the Marape Government for making this road happen, as well as the OPIC General-Secretary Kepson Pupita for taking the people’s burden on board and building this road for them.
“The people can see the Government at work through such projects like this.
“This is just one of the many projects in oil palm provinces that OPIC is pushing in West New Britain, New Ireland, Northern and Milne Bay provinces.
“OPIC has impact projects in these provinces and it would be good if the Government can give us increased funding in the 2022 gudget to carry on,” Lisa says.
At Sarakolok, outside Kimbe, OPIC has already expended more than K500,000 on building a K1 million bridge after the old one was washed away by flood waters.
OPIC is now awaiting counterpart funding from the West New Britain Provincial Government to complete the bridge.
The abutments have already been laid and are awaiting a bailey bridge to be placed on top.
“The bridge has been cut off for a long time and the people have really suffered,” Lisa says.
“OPIC has taken on the challenge and brought in a contractor, with assurance of assistance from the provincial government.
“The concrete abutments have already been laid and the next step now is to put a bailey bridge on top.
“There is a large oil-palm growing population here which needs this vital service.
“The local people are so happy to see the bridge nearing completion.”
Along the Poi Road, OPIC has built a much-need culvert, which is allowing the people to have easy access to market.
“The money which oil palm growers pay to OPIC, through levies, is given back to them through such projects,” Lisa explains.
“We ensure that our projects are up to the required standards of the Works Department.
“This why representatives of OPIC and the Works Department are always checking that the contractors are working.
“Vehicles are now going in and out to pick up fruit which makes life so much easier for the people.
“Just recently, men were pushing out their fruit in wheelbarrows, women were carrying them in bilums.
“The Marape Government, through OPIC, is making a difference to the lives of our oil palm growers by building infrastructure that allows them to take their produce to market.”

  • Malum Nalu works with the Office of the Prime Minister