By PETER ESILA
THE Oil Palm Industry Corporation (Opic) wants its 1,897 smallholder farmers to work their blocks for increased production so that they can earn more money to sustain their living.
Opic acting general-secretary Kepson Pupita said this in Kavieng on Saturday during the opening of the refurbished Opic staff house and office with new fencing, rehabilitation of block roads and purchase of two motorbikes.
Pupita said all these changes would enable officers to carry out effective extension work across 2,820 hectares of smallholder blocks.
The Poliamba estate of New Britain Palm Oil Ltd (NBPOL) in Kavieng has about 5,000 hectares of planted oil palm.
Pupita said the funds came from the K50 million price support and intervention programme provided by the national government last year to support the agriculture sector.
Of the K50 million, K2 million was allocated to Opic.
“With the K2 million, I have done in the five project areas (Milne Bay, Northern, Bialla, Hoskins and Kavieng) block rehabilitation, building access roads to complement the PIP (public investment programme) funds on run down blocks,” Pupita said.
“On top of that, we have two motorbikes each for all projects but Hoskins has four motorbikes because that is our biggest project with about 32,000 hectares of smallholder blocks.”
Pupita said from the K2 million, about K700,000 was spent on the Kavieng project.
“I intend to buy a small three-ton truck for the Kavieng project,” he said.
“Our crop production has increased because of the intervention that Opic has been doing, as you can hear, they will say that they have been abandoned for a very long time, but since I came in I have put in a lot of effort to change the oil palm industry corporation.
“We must increase the yield of the crop harvest.
“As an industry, we are doing 11-15 tonnes per hectare per year on average when the milling company are doing 30 to 40 tonnes on average, meaning that the smallholders have a big challenge ahead to at least bring the yields midway or somewhere near to what the milling companies are doing.
“The land is there, the labour is there but the thing that we cannot be able to do, tools and the labour, motivation of our Opic staff to stay with the farmers to boost the farmers to stay in the blocks is another thing.
“That is why I am buying motorbikes to motivate the staffs so that they will be there, refurbishing the houses so they are motivated and I make sure that I continue to visit the project sites myself.”
By PETER ESILA