By SOLDIER BURUKA of DAL
Public private partnerships and freight subsidies will assist in promoting agricultural production, particularly the cash crop industry, according to Western province Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive and PNG Rubber Industry Board chairman Warren Dutton.
Mr Dutton made the call during the recent Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC) Southern regional development forum in Popondetta.
He said without strong public private partnerships and workable freight subsidies, the production of most smallholder crops had been in continual decline.
Mr Dutton said previous governments had introduced a policy on freight subsidies for smallholder produce; however, it had not been properly implemented.
He questioned why recommendations by the National Agriculture Council and CIMC national development forum for a freight subsidy scheme were yet to be implemented.
He said that without the partnership between village growers, co-operatives, buying and exporting companies, provincial governments and the national government there would be no cash crop industries in PNG.
Without freight subsidies to provide acceptable prices, all those industries would die, and 85% of PNG’s population would be the losers.
Mr Dutton told the forum that freight subsidies could be made to work in PNG.
“It is the most cost-effective way of distributing the large revenues that are already being earned from mining and oil projects and that will be earned from the LNG project,” he said.
“Surely, now is the time to use some of the funding of the NADP and the revenues which will flow from the LNG project, to provide the freight subsidies that will stimulate our most-remote and neglected smallholders to restart and/or increase their production.”
Mr Dutton said without subsidies, production of most of PNG’s smallholder crops had been in continual decline.
Production has been in decline ever since PNG “destroyed” its plantation industry and the partnerships which the plantations had with their neighboring smallholders.
He said the Government’s policy of encouraging public private partnerships was correct because it would rebuild the relationship which used to exist between smallholders and expert agricultural investors.
Those expert investors are then responsible for providing the training, transport, and marketing for their neighboring smallholders.
Most importantly they must pay an acceptable price for the smallholder’s product.
Mr Dutton said many cash crop industries were under threat because the prices offered to the smallholders were not acceptable to them.
The low prices do not provide an acceptable return for their labour.
He told the forum that the Western province smallholder rubber industry was the only successful smallholder rubber industry because it had hardworking village growers, a good public-private partnership and freight subsidies which allowed the growers to be paid an acceptable and competitive price for their cash crops and labour.
North Fly Rubber Limited’s public-private partnership first with Ok Tedi Mining Limited, then with PNG Sustainable Development Program, and now with the Western province administration has contributed greatly to the development of a sustainable rubber industry in the province.
OTML has for the past 18 years shipped processed rubber from Kiunga to
Now it allows them to be paid an extra 43 toea.
Without this assistance it would not have been worth the growers’ while to ever tap their rubber trees.