By SHEILA LASIBORI
OIL Palm growers in Oro province aim to produce 180,000 tonnes of fruit this year, following last year’s low output, according to the Popondetta Oil Palm Industries Corp (Opic).
Last year, the growers harvested only 130,000 tonnes out of the targeted 170,000 tonnes, mainly due to the devastation caused by Cyclone Guba in 2007 where about 98ha of oil palm land was lost, Graydon Hanguru, field manager for Opic, said.
He said another reason for the low harvest was the non-distribution of fertilisers to growers since 2007.
That year, about a third of the growers were supplied fertilisers, then there was nothing for both 2008 and last year.
This year, they have restarted distributing fertilisers where three divisions (Sorovi, Igora, and Ilimo) have been covered with the remaining two divisions to be supplied soon.
The price per tonne of the harvest this year has been: January, K191.90/t; February, K194.58/t; and this month, K211.33/t.
Mr Hanguru said the way in which growers were paid their cheques had been changed to avoid long queues at the only bank (Bank South Pacific).
There was an inflow of people into Popondetta who emptied shelves in shops, he said.
“This was a big change we did to reschedule the harvest time and the day for issing cheques to the growers,” he said yesterday.
The growers were grouped into two zones: Zone one consisted of Sorovi, Saiho, and Ilimo which started the first harvest on Jan 4 and got their cheques the following Friday.
Zone Two (Igora and Aeka) followed suit which harvested on Jan 11 and received their cheques the following Friday.
“So what is happening now is that we are trying to get them to harvest according to their schedules … we are paying them every Friday,” Mr Hanguru said.
He also said the Asian Development Bank -funded smallholder agriculture development project (SADP), or the in-filling project, was two years behind schedule.
“It is an in-filling project and not a new development,” he said, adding they were preparing for SADP.
So far, it had recruited lands and environment officers who were currently undergoing basic training at Hoskins in West New Britain province.