Sir Puka backs rice monopoly plan

Business, Normal

The National, Thursday 26 January 2012

MINISTER for Agriculture and Livestock Sir Puka Temu said rice prices would be 20% less than prevailing market price even if the proposed commercial rice farming got the green light from the National Executive Council (NEC) after the negotiations.
He said competition in the rice import market would remain.
Temu said the rice project by Naima Agro Industry Ltd was a K5 billion investment and was estimated to have an annual turnover of K700 million.
He said the project could create more opportunities for the nationals such as employment and income.
He said this would be the first time for PNG to export its own rice if needed to, thus contributing to the country’s revenue.
When asked about the recent media statements by Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) and National Research Institute (NRI) who opposed the project, he said they should consider other alternatives that could come with the project and see it from a bigger picture.               
He said Trukai Industries should not be jumping up and down now because they once had a rice monopoly for the past thirty years until recently.
He said the proposed commercial rice farming was still under negotiations and the final decision would come from the NEC where he would present the results from the negotiations.
“I am surprised that Trukai is jumping up and down in the pretext of anti-competition,” Temu said.
He said commercial rice farming was a high risk area where most investors would not want to risk.
Temu also recalled the memorandum of agreement between Trukai Industries and PNG government where Trukai said that “Trukai will only go into commercial rice farming if they want to and only when it becomes commercially viable”.
Temu said the Central government had approved the rice project and were now waiting for the government to act on it.
He said that four landowner groups had given up their land for rice cultivation.
He said in his capacity as the minister for Agriculture and Livestock, he had never seen major project proposal before him and this was the first one.