Western launches agriculture plan

Business

By PETER ESILA
WESTERN has launched its agriculture master plan to sustain the people and its economy long after the Ok Tedi mine.
The WestAgro master plan is a joint venture between Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF) and Israeli company Innovative Agro Industry (IAI) Ltd to manage rural and agricultural development activities in Western.
Governor Taboi Awi Yoto said during the launch in Kiunga on Friday: “We know that Ok Tedi, will be here for some time, we know that there are some other prospects but it is a non-renewable resource.
“One day it will be gone, so we have to prepare for an alternative source of income.”
Yoto said the plan would need more then K200 million to deliver with 20 per cent to come from IAI.
The plan needs a holistic approach with vanilla for Kiunga (North Fly), food security programme of rice, stockfeed and poultry for Kaviananga/Obo and Aiambak (Middle Fly) and cocoa for Suki (South Fly). The launching was witnessed by North Fly MP James Donald, Middle Fly MP Roy Biyama and South Fly MP Sekie Agisa.
Vice-Minister for Public Enterprises and State Investment Tomait Kapili, members of the Ok Tedi Mining Ltd board led by chairman Sir Moi Avei, IAI group and OTDF led by board chairman Musje Werror.
Yoto said the provincial government and districts would be putting money into the plan.
“We have been supporting rubber for the last 52 years,” he said.
“It is about time we have to start investing in other cash crops.
“Through the royalties of Ok Tedi, when the provincial government gets it, it is our plan that we will be committing at least 20 per cent of our royalties into this.
“We have other internal revenue sources. We have 33 per cent equity (in Ok Tedi mine), the Fly River government has 12 per cent. Whatever funds that we receive from there will support the WestAgro master plan.”
Werror said the master plan heralded the beginning of a new and exciting era.
“We see a changing of attitudes of the communities to improve and sustain the livelihoods and address poverty,” he said.
“There is no greater awareness to develop renewable opportunities and reduce dependence on annual compensation from OTML.
“The increase in the tax credit scheme rate of 2 per cent from 0.75 allows for the implementation of major impact projects to support this great plan. There is also continued funding, since 2008 till now, of over K250 million .
“The operational support provided by OTML to OTDF will enable OTDF to realise its vision to improve self-sustainability and quality of life of Western province communities.”

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