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July 2, 2022

Sankamap Exports founder believes Bougainville business has a bright future

Sunkamap’s Robert Critchley. Source: BAI



Establishing a business in Bougainville is a difficult challenge. But Robert Critchley, owner of cocoa and copra supplier, Sankamap Exports, describes how it can be done.

Sankamap Exports was started in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in 2011. It exports copra and cocoa, and is described as the leading cocoa buyer on Buka Island.

Founder Robert Critchley, who has a mother from Bougainville and an Australian father, says one of the keys to its success was establishing the right local business relationships.

‘I built a good network to help facilitate what would assist me in properly establishing my business in its initial stages.

‘One of the most influential and important factors was securing a market and connecting to international investors.

‘Having a Bougainville mother also no doubt helped secure this market share.’

Critchley says he was able to attract seed capital from an investor.

‘This allowed me to be more competitive against the existing buyers in Bougainville.

‘Having a Bougainville mother also no doubt helped secure this market share.’


Critchley says the company exports on average 1500 to 2000 tonnes of dry copra a month. It also exports 30 to 60 tonnes of dry cocoa.

‘We spend an average of K2000 per day on cocoa and copra purchased from the farmers.

‘Bougainville has one of the highest cost of goods in PNG.’

‘My company also employs over 100 employees, our workers.’


Critchley says the company has diversified into other business activities, including property construction.

It has also moved into shipping. Critchley says getting ships to come to Bougainville is problematic, and it is also difficult to get shipping insurance.

He hopes that his shipping service will result in ‘more competitive freight rates’ into Bougainville.

‘Hopefully, with lower freight rates, it also lowers the cost of goods into Bougainville.

‘Bougainville has one of the highest cost of goods in PNG.’

‘I am also looking at opportunities in other export markets.’

Critchley’s favourite business move is ‘owning a bar’—and enjoying a drink after work.

Adding value

Critchley is looking to add value to the cocoa and copra exports through downstream processing.

‘I am also looking at opportunities in other export markets. Fisheries, logging and hopefully I will get into importing as well.’

Critchley says he is also hoping to increase the numbers of supplying farmers and improve the service that he provides to them.

‘Eventually participants began to see the value in working together in influencing policies and networking.’

‘This customer supply and orientation is key to business in Bougainville. Businesses are being built and there are opportunities for investors.’

Buka Association

Critchley is President of the Buka Business Association, which was established in 2017. He says the association is recognised by the Autonomous Region of Bougainville government as the voice of the private sector in the island.

‘We know that the private sector needs a voice. The association exists to represent members’ views to the government to build trade and investment, networks, and to help business people to be compliant.’

Critchley acknowledges that forming the association has not been ‘entirely straightforward’.

But, eventually, participants began to see the value in working together to influence policies and network. There are now 40 members.

He says he is developing relationships with other business associations, both inside and outside PNG, to strengthen trade and investment.

‘We are looking to learn from other associations. We also want to have all associations collaborate in establishing a Bougainville Business Association. Bougainville has come a long way and admittedly we have a long way to go if we are to increase the level of private investment.

‘But I believe Bougainville has a bright future.’

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