PNG agriculture minister's import policy concerns SMEs
The head of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry is standing by his criticism of the Papua New Guinea Agriculture Minister for his handling of vegetable imports.
In Papua New Guinea, the head of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry is standing by his criticism of the Agriculture Minister for his handling of vegetable imports.
The minister, Tommy Tomscoll, has effectively banned all but one company from importing vegetables to PNG.
The chamber has complained that the sole permit for Gryph Holdings Ltd has created a monopoly for the import of produce into PNG, something which Mr Tomscoll disputes.
The chamber's David Conn spoke to Johnny Blades about the issue.
DAVID CONN: Well the upshot of it is the supermarkets are not getting issued with permits and are not able to import on their own. But they can import through this newly appointed monopoly, and we're getting reports of onions (selling) for 20 Kina a kilo in the supermarkets, if you can find one. And the kids of Papua New Guinea are starting to forget what a carrot looks like!
JOHNNY BLADES: In the minister's response, he has aligned your chamber with largely foreign businesses and I think in the resources sector, he's tending to say. But you do have a wider range than just the big fish?
DC: Well, we have some of the these mining sector guys in our chamber, but we're not a foreign chamber. We've been here for ninety-odd years and if you looked at the composition of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce, you would find that over 785 of them are local businesses - small to medium businesses. We're not a foreign chamber at all.
JB: Everything's got to go through the minister, basically.
DC: Quite frankly, we called for his sacking. The lack of foresight, the lack of consultation, creating suspicion, creating these monopolies, it's just not the way to operate. This is an area that worked perfectly fine before, and is an area that is in total chaos at the moment, because of our own Department of Agriculture. Nobody denies the intent of trying to encourage local producers and what not. But you need to be able to assess number one that these local producers can provide the volumes that you need, and then that raises the question of what is
the Department of Agriculture doing anyway? Is it an efficient department, is it helping local growers? Is it helping them with, for instance, drought-resistant crops in this recent El Nino (climate phase)? Is it helping them with transportation, marketing? These are areas where the Department of Agriculture has been criticised for years. And the minister would do well to get his department to address those areas. Because when he addresses those, then the local producer will be able to produce and we, even as a chamber, we will applaud when these imports are replaced.
JB: They're not seriously trying to deport you or anything over these comments, are they?
DC: We've had a few phone calls in the office this morning and my girls have been fielding them, then come rushing in to say Mr Tomscoll's on the phone, and when I answer the phone he asks me when I was elected to office and (that) I should pack my bags, I've got three days to get out. I assume that it wasn't him. It doesn't sound like him. I would be horrified if he would even stoop to that level.
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