By ALISON ANIS
LOCAL rubber planters in the Cape Rodney rubber scheme in Abau district, Central province, claim that overseas groups are allegedly involved in the illegal extraction of rubber latex in the area.
Two local buyers and exporters have reported that the groups, from China, were forcing them to reduce their workforce and to increase rubber charges from K1.40 per kilo to K1.60kg to match the new traders.
“Another Chinese company has just come in and is now buying rubber from locals in the district,” an employee from the Galley Ridge Holdings, a licenced buyer said.
He said the group, which called itself the Shanghai Enterprise PNG Limited, was formed by a man from Fujian province in mainland China and a Kimbe-based Chinese dealer in the beche-de-mer (sea cucumber) business who teamed up with former public servant.
A company search yesterday showed that the company was not listed with Investment Promotion Authority (IPA).
“The company has attracted a lot of farmers by offering better price, forcing to increase our charges from K1.40 to K1.60 per kilo to match theirs,” he said, adding that the increase in fees took place only on Wednesday.
NR Global, another big buyer, has also confirmed that they have to increase their fees to K1.60.
“The situation is getting worse apparently because now we have this new company coming and creating some disturbances for us and the farmers,” a company spokesman said yesterday.
“Rubber production has been very bad and we had to lay off some workers. Before, we could easily export eight to 10 containers but now we can only export up to three,” he said.
He said the only limitation was in the availability of rubber due to the unscrupulous deals from the foreigners.
Both employees did not want their names revealed to the public.
They said that previously the Chinese groups were buying raw rubber and were violating government directives about the export of unprocessed rubber.
Customs officials yesterday said that they were not aware of unprocessed rubber being exported overseas at present but confirmed that they had seized some in past following complaints from the public.
“In this instance, we have not received any formal complaints,” the officer said.
The officer also said there were differences between the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and the rubber board when they prevented the shipment of raw rubber overseas because both held different legal views.
“The board was saying this was not okay while the DAL said it was okay and we are caught in the middle because we do not know who is right.”
Another Chinese company operating in the area has been identified by the buyers as New China Timber Company which was registered, according to documents obtained from IPA which did not list rubber as one of its business activities.
Department of Agriculture and Livestock deputy secretary and caretaker team leader for rubber, Vele Kagena said a new board for rubber industry had been formed and would be having their first board meeting sometime next week to decide on the concerns raised by local buyers and farmers.
“We will be deciding on what actions to be taken deal with various complaints from local buyers in the district,” he said.