Markham cattle farmers call for DAL probe

National, Normal

MARKHAM cattle farmers in Morobe province want Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Hickey investigated after more than 100 cattle have been found dead since August.
Another 3,000 are missing while 600 “have been sold illegally”, Markham Cattle Farmers Association told Agriculture and Livestock secretary Anton Benjamin yesterday.
Farmers yesterday handed him a petition and gave a seven-day ultimatum to the department to respond or they would move in and take all the cattle.
In the meantime, they have locked the main gate so that no cattle are allowed out.
Their petition demanded among other things that “irregularities” in the transfer of cattle to a farm in Bogia, Madang province, be investigated.
Wampar local level government president Peter Namus and association president and agriculture scientist Joseph Tetang told Mr Benjamin that they had been left out the National Agricultural Development Plan (NADP).
Early this year, the farmers wrote a letter to Mr Hickey requesting equal distribution of cattle bought from the Markham Farm by the State.
They said they had not received any reply or cattle.
On Aug 17, they gave Mr Hickey a 14-day ultimatum which lapsed on Aug 31.
Mr Tetang told Mr Benjamin that the Government should not overlook the cattle farmers.
“We have the experience and skills to help the Government achieve its objective and, therefore, must begin with us,” Mr Tetang said.
In the petition, the farmers demanded the State recognise and distribute the cattle proportionately among the cattle producing constituents within the Momase region. They requested 2,000 heads.
They also demanded that the Government first establish nucleus breeding and distribution stations in Morobe at Wawin, Erap, Zifazing in the Markham valley and Gitua in Tewai district.
These stations would become repositories for other centres to get breeders.
They said they were aware that Mr Hickey was planning to take all 4,000-plus cattle to Goinbang in Madang, which was in his Bogia electorate.
They also demanded that the 4,450 cattle at the Markham Farm and Munum be relocated to Wawin, Erap and Zifazing where there was no conflict of commercial interest by the Markham Farming Company.
They called for an investigation into Mr Hickey’s dealings in the purchase and distribution of the cattle from the Markham Farm.
The farmers also called on the Prime Minister to appoint a constitutional body to investigate the tender processes and validity of all management contractors and agents appointed by Mr Hickey.
Mr Tetang urged Mr Benjamin to also investigate the current management arrangement between Mr Hickey and the Markham Farming Company.
They believed there were irregularities involved in the sale of Government-owned cattle.
They questioned the proceeds of the sale being deposited into two private bank accounts of two expatriates.
Mr Tetang refuted a public notice put out by DAL on Aug 6.
They said the claim that the remaining herd were managed by a professional contractor was not true because the contractor was a lawyer and “not a professional cattleman”.