CHANGE TO OIL PALM LAW ANNOUNCED
The current Government has made a commitment to change parts of the Oil Palm Industry Corporation Act to mutually benefit all parties in the industry, Agriculture and Livestock Minister, John Simon has announced.
He said in a media statement today the Marape Government was committed to reviewing the Oil Palm Industry Corporation (OPIC) Act to bring about long-overdue changes within the billion-kina industry.
He said this yesterday to hundreds of oil palm blockholders at Sarakolok in Hoskins, West New Britain, when opening the K1 million Sarakolok Bridge funded jointly by the West New Britain Provincial Government and the Oil Palm Industry Corporation (OPIC).
The Agriculture and Livestock Minister also told the blockholders that:
• The Government had allocated K10 million for road development in major oil palm provinces, including West New Britain, and would be pushing for K1 million of this to be allocated to Sarakolok;
• The Government had allocated K2 million for oil palm research and development;
• Government had plans to build an oil mill for smallholders; and,
• Lands and Physical Planning Minister, John Rosso would be addressing their land issues;
The blockholders are from all over the country and have settled permanently in West New Britain to work their blocks.
Minister Simon was accompanied by West New Britain Governor, Sasindran Muthuvel, Talasea MP, Francis Maneke, acting secretary for Department of Agriculture and Livestock, Steven Mombi, OPIC Acting General-Secretary Kepson Pupita and WNB Provincial Administrator, Williamson Hosea.
The bridge is a welcome relief for blockholders who have been suffering for several years because of transport difficulties in taking their fresh fruit bunch (FFB) to market.
“The Oil Palm Industry Corporation Act has been in place for a long time, and needs to be reviewed, as it only allows OPIC to provide extension services to the smallholder growers whereas the big oil palm companies operate in an unregulated industry,” Minister Simon said.
“OPIC, under the current legislative framework, cannot impose sustainable oil palm practice, collect levies, charge licensing fees, create regulations and standards, enforce compliance, impose sanctions and penalties, and prosecute offences.”
Minister Simon said MP Maneke has been pushing him for a review of the Oil Palm Act, “and before we go to the elections, we will ensure that this act goes before Parliament”.
“The act was supposed to have been reviewed by our predecessors, however, this has not been done,” he said.
“When the act is passed, you (growers) will no longer have to pay some of the fees that you are currently paying.”
Minister Simon said the Marape Government’s commitment to the oil palm industry was indicated in K10 million in the 2022 Budget for road development in the major oil palm-growing provinces of West New Britain, New Ireland, Northern and Milne Bay.
He said he would talk with OPIC about diverting K1 million of this towards road development in Sarakolok.
“The Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister, has been focused on ‘going rural’ ever since we took office in 2019,” Minister Simon said.
“We have to go and visit people in rural areas, we must go out and find out what their problems are, we must not leave anyone behind – Government services must reach down to everyone.”