COPRA production, which has become a way of life in the coastal provinces of Papua New Guinea, will continue to grow despite current low prices, according to the Kokonas Indastri Koporesen (KIK).
KIK acting industry affairs manager Alan Aku said this in light of copra prices and production hitting an all-time low last year.
He told The National that PNG last year produced 31,000 tonnes of copra compared with 46,000 in 2011, with export earnings – figures for which were still being finalised – being the lowest ever mainly because of the economic crisis in Europe.
“The drop in production is not much,” Aku said.
“Irrespective of the price going down (to its lowest levels ever), people are still producing.
“Production is not too bad.
“Our production figures for last year have shown that although the prices have gone down, farmers have continued to produce copra, and we are still exporting.
“Some of those who have export licences have opted not to export because the prices are low, and are both buying and stocking them up, or they are selling to local processing mills like Copra Products Ltd in East New Britain or Pristine in Madang.
“These are the two mills we have operating in the country
The current major producers of copra in the country are Bougainville, East New Britain, West New Britain, Madang, New Ireland and Milne Bay.
KIK’s predecessor, the Copra Marketing Board, had depots in all coastal provinces and had a monopoly over copra buying until its demise.
“Copra Marketing Board was the monopoly copra buyer in the country,” Aku said.
“It set up depots in all coastal provinces and was buying, that’s when the provinces were interested in producing copra.
“But then, government wanted to liberate the market, so they took away the marketing power of Copra Marketing Board and made it available to the private sector.
“They made KIK to become the regulatory body alone.
“That’s when the market was opened up to private entities who wanted to go into buying and selling, it’s all private sector now.
“It happened in 2001; in 2002 KIK came into operation.
“That’s why Gulf has stopped producing copra, Central has stopped producing copra, Morobe has stopped producing copra, East Sepik has scaled down, Manus has gone down, Oro (Northern) has gone down.
“These provinces have stopped producing copra basically because there’s no market.
“Currently, copra production is centred on six provinces – Bougainville, New Ireland, East New Britain, West New Britain, Madang, and Milne Bay.”