Rice has become a staple food for Papua New Guineas in urban communities. Despite havingthe climate and land space to grow rice, it has yet to be grown and sold locally inthe country.
National Planning Minister Charles Abel has endorsedthe Central Rice Project and directed that negotiations commence withthe proponent Naima Rice, inthe Kairuku – Hiri district.
The project was terminated by Agriculture and Livestock Minister, Tommy Tomscoll, last year over legal concerns. The project has been linked to controversial fugitive, Joko Tjandra, and allegations have emerged against some Ministersinthe current O’Neill-Dion government for fast-trackingthe project.
Last year, NEC approverd K4.88 million to support futher work on this proposal throughthe National Project Steering Committee (NPSC) in 2012, and DAL also allocated K1 million from its activity budget to co-ordinate and monitor land mobilization and socio-economic feasibility programs relating tothe study ofthe proposal.
NaimaInvestment Limited was seeking from Government approval for a 20-year exclusivity as sole rice grower of a large scale commercial rice farming project; approval froPNG government to apply a 80 percent import levy (increase tariff) on all imported rice; and approval for a 24-month preferential import levy at zero rates.
Minister Abel sain PNG needs foreign investment to assist us to capitalize our economy, and welcomed genuine investors.
However, he said under this arrangementogovernment will not grant a monopoly or exclusivity arrangements, only ther incentives, but he did not specify whatthe incentives were.
The Agriculture Minister, last year expressed concern thatthe Naima Rice Project , valued at K2 billion, would create a monopoly inthe marketoand competition would erode giving way to dysfunctional and inefficient systems that may add to high cost structure already experienced inthe country.
Mr. Tomscoll said in a market that only has one or few suppliers of rice, prices can be controlled, meaning thatthe consumer does not have a choice.
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