By MALUM NALU
The palm oil industry has warned the people of Papua New Guinea to be wary of “con” oil palm projects appearing all over the country.
Palm oil representative Ian Orrell, in a no-holds barred presentation, told a workshop focusing on LNG and agriculture last Friday that this was all done with the purpose of logging, and was already giving a bad name to the established industry.
Agriculture Minister Ano Pala and his department acting secretary, Anton Benjamin – who have been supporting such special agriculture and business lease (SABL) projects all over the country – were not present to hear Orrell’s words as well as other important agricultural matters, as they had left for China the previous day.
Orrell said this “virtual” palm oil industry had seen the emergence of many “oil palm” agro-forestry projects, all with a focus on securing forest conservation areas (FCAs).
He said there was a land grab using SABLs, with over 5.3 million hectares lease-lease back (LLB) to third parties, which is land alienation, usually for 99 years.
“Most profess to be for ‘palm oil’ development,” Orrell said.
“This poses a massive reputational risk for the country and its palm oil exports.
“This will directly affect our market access and is blocking real development opportunities from real investors.
“The ‘real’ palm oil industry must take, and is taking, an active role in supporting awareness, opposition and mitigation activities to prevent these abuses of customary land and resource rights.”
Orrell said there had been no government support for the “real” palm oil sub-sector, with over 15 years of government facilitation of new palm oil developments - “which has led to?”
He questioned the national development strategic plan 2030 (DSP2030) and national agriculture development plan (NADP) aims to triple palm oil exports by 2030, as well as an expressed strong desire for new investors.
“It appears PNG is being advertised overseas as a large available ‘land bank’,” Orrell said.
“Departments and politicians are courting any entrepreneurial proposal, no matter how little expertise, credentials or lack of financial capacity is exhibited.”