Farmers in Central New Ireland are enjoying increased participation in the oil palm market as a result of continuous road improvement projects on the Boluminski Highway, supported by the PNG-Australia Partnership.
Major road maintenance works were completed in 2018 and minor works continue on the Highway, which is now fully sealed from Kavieng to Namatanai.
Ben Aisini is a farmer from Kabin village with a three-hectare block of oil palm that yields four to five tonnes of fruit each season, which is comparatively more profitable than his copra plantation.
“I’ve seen changes in the industry and improvements that benefit us as farmers,” said Ben, who is now a member of a farmer’s association that collects and transports oil palm for members to the island’s palm oil mill.
“With the help of the association, farmers can get our fruit to the mill in good time, especially as the association has four wheel drives to help bring our harvest to the highway from our blocks,” explains Ben.
“Without this service, and the improved road, our fruit would be left in our blocks to rot.”
Isaac Laxidak from Kandis village was a transport contractor for oil palm farmers before becoming a farmer himself. He describes the importance of getting a harvest to the mill quickly.
“When you harvest, you can only leave your cut fruit overnight or the palm oil will not meet export quality standards and the market value will drop. So the farmer’s association is a great help, providing vehicles to collect and deliver our harvest to the mill before the fruit spoils. If the fruit does not pass quality control, prices drop ¬¬– or worse – the mill rejects the fruit and farmers cannot cover their everyday living expenses.”
Jacobeth Mai is from Katedan and is benefiting from her oil palm block, planted in 2014.
“Oil palm helps with school fees. My children have finished school but I have 36 grandchildren,” she said.
“My in-laws help me to cut the fruit, because my husband has already passed away. When it falls to the ground, we collect it in a wheelbarrow and bring it to the road for the truck to pick up.”
The improved road condition has made it easier for these farmers to access services, earn an income, and support their families.
“It’s easy to take the bus to Kavieng or Namatanai to get supplies from the stores there. Our road is in good condition and that makes it easier to travel than in the past,” Ben added.
In line with the “Connect PNG” policy focus on improving priority roads, the PNG-Australia Partnership continues to support minor works along the highway including bridge maintenance, vegetation control and guard-rail installation to improve safety and reliability for road users.