Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Sir PukaTemu has described the new commercial rice project in Central province as a major agriculture investment that will boost economic development.
And he has appealed to the landowners and people of Kairuku-Hiri district where the project will be located to accept, support and make it work.
Sir Puka said the multi-billion kina rice project would be a major impact project for the district, the province and Southern region as well as the country and this opportunity should not be missed.
He was speaking at a meeting with landowners and the community at Vanapa on Monday last week. The previous weekend Sir Puka also paid a visit to the Nara/Gabadi community and delivered a similar message to the people there.
Sir Puka, accompanied by his departmental head and members of the rice project team, told the people that disagreements and infighting amongst the landowners would have a negative effect on their chances of participating in the project.
He called on the landowners, clan leaders, community leaders and individuals to solve their differences and work together and support the government so that the project could commence and everyone could benefit.
Sir Puka reminded the people that due to landowner infighting and land disputes in the Rigo district, the sugar project was taken away and established at Ramu in Morobe province. A similar problem should not force the government to move the rice project to another province, he said.
The 5-6 billion kina project is a major investment in rice development and agriculture sector in PNG in which the investor will develop 100,000 hectares of land for commercial rice leading to increased benefits to landowners, employment, training, infrastructure and reduce rice imports.
This is a huge opportunity for PNG to produce rice on a larger scale and will need all the support from the landowners and communities within the project areas including provincial and district administration, ward councillors, village leaders and other stakeholders.
Sir Puka said there would be increased opportunities for the resource owners to participate in spin off businesses, employment and training as well as improved infrastructure in roads and social services. People’s livelihoods will change as they will have access to money and better services.
Sir Puka assured the people that the O’Neill/Namah government was committed towards supporting the project because it wants to boost economic development in the province.
He said there would be many challenges that would require a lot of understanding and patience and urged all parties to sit together and discuss the issues.
Sir Puka said he hoped that the deed of agreement for the project could be signed by the investor and the government this month.
As a fully integrated highly mechanised project using state-of-the-art technology, the investor’s plans are to develop massive water irrigation system, dams, road networks, airstrip, harbour, township and rice milling facilities.
The project once developed should generate employment opportunities in excess of 5,000 jobs, produce over 3.0 million tons of rice, save over K500 million in foreign exchange revenues and earn in excess of K3 billion in foreign exchange earnings per annum. Besides the huge financial gains to the nation, positive economic impacts to the landowners, local communities, Central Province, this project will substantially raise the profile of the agriculture sector to new heights.