‘Land still available for oil palm’

Oil Palm Industry Corporation acting general secretary Kepson Pupita at the New Britain Palm Oil Limited’s Poliamba mill in Kavieng, New Ireland, on Saturday.

ABOUT 6.2 million hectares of land is still available to grow oil palm in PNG, according to the Oil Palm Industry Corporation (Opic).
Opic acting general secretary Kepson Pupita said Opic aimed to revive the industry by fixing existing infrastructure, improving manpower and reviewing legislation.
Palm oil is PNG’s major agricultural export earner, generating on average K1.2 billion in export revenues annually.

Children at an oil palm smallholder block access road that Opic built outside Kavieng, New Ireland, on Saturday. – Nationalpics by PETER ESILA

On Saturday, Pupita opened a newly-refurbished Opic office and staff house outside Kavieng, New Ireland with a new fencing around the office.
A smallholder access road was also built by Opic outside Kavieng.
All this cost K700,000, from the K2 million Opic received from the Government’s K50 million agriculture price support and intervention programme.
He said the K2 million was used in project areas of Milne Bay, Northern, Bialla and Hoskins in West New Britain and Kavieng on block rehabilitation programmes.

The refurbished Opic staff house outside Kavieng, New Ireland after being renovated. Bottom Left: The old Opic staff house.

He said with the Opic Act being reviewed, more revenue would be earned.
Pupita said there were flaws in the Act that had negative implications on Opic and smallholder farmers.
These included: the rate of the FFB (fresh fruit bunches) levies contained in the Act was done in the past with little consideration to inflation and the rising cost of goods and services, as such, levies collected today were insufficient to sustain Opic’s operations.
Opic offices in the districts were completely run-down.
He said the Act did not grant Opic regulatory functions rendering Opic merely an extension service provider.
“Opic needs to be given the regulatory functions in order for proper coordination and management of the industry. In the absence of this, the private sector is dominating the industry,” he said.
Pupita said in the next 20 to 30 years, if the 6.2 million hectares of land was used, about K120 billion could be raised in terms of export earnings.
“We have a lot of land in the Sepik plains, Markham valley, Ramu plains, Transgogol and Musa valley,” Pupita said.