By SEBASTIAN HAKALITS
FARMERS in North Bougain-ville are now enjoying the benefits of selling their copra following the increase in copra prices.
After the drop in prices of copra in 2012, copra plantations were left unattended, resulting in many families resorting to other means of earning an income apart from those that earn a fortnightly salary.
Pristine 101Ltd, an Indian based company who bought the Kokonas Industries Koporesin (KIK) assets in Bougainville, has set up a copra mill in the heart of Buka town and is now buying the produce at a very high price compared to other local copra buyers.
A local farmer, Saul Katsin, who now usually sells his copra to Pristine 101, said he is now seeing the real benefit of copra as he is also able to save some money with the cheque he gets and deposits into his account at the bank.
“When the price of copra was down, it could not sustain my family needs, so I and my wife resorted to selling betel nut, smoke and other things in the village just to meet our household needs,” Mr Katsin said.
“Since the rise in price of copra, you can see now that Buka town is crowded mostly with copra farmers and as evident, shops are also making more money with a lot of their goods selling out and not gathering dust on shelves.”
Pristine 101 was commissioned in January by Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Tommy Tomscoll when he accompanied Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on his Goodwill visit to the Region with other ministerial delegates.
It started buying copra at 65 toea per kilogram or K650.00 per tonnage but has gradually increased to K1.02 per kilogram or K1002.00 per tonnage.
The manager of Pristine 101 said the company is here “not as traders but manufacturers and we are here for one purpose and that is to buy, mill, and export the coconut oil to overseas markets and we buy according to the world market price”.
“We are encouraging farmers to dry their copra properly with a moisture percentage of 5 percent and below, and that we will pay for, at the exact buying price and when it is 6 percent and upwards we will deduct the moisture percentage with the current buying price,” the manager, who asked not to be named, said.
“We give incentives to truck owners in terms of giving them K2.00 per bag for every load of copra they bring in which they collect after every month and shortly we will also pay boat owners who carry copra from across Kokopau.”
“Free bags are also given to farmers who come in with their copra on Mondays and Fridays in replacement of their copra bags and we are also educating farmers on copra drying.”
The manager has also cleared some grievances of farmers regarding payment of cheque to them when selling their produce.
He said this is to encourage farmers to open accounts with the banks so that they can save some money as well as it is also for safety reasons of the company.
Farmers can open accounts with the Bank of South Pacific or Nationwide Micro bank in Buka to make it more convenient for them so they can save money too, the manager said.