PNG COPRA CRISIS GROWS, MILL CLOSURE LOOMS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 29, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Copra Products Limited, a subsidiary of WR Carpenters company, is on the verge of shutting its production due to inadequate stocks of copra.

The company has been long considered a premium coconut oil producer in the South Pacific.

But with losses amounting to more than K4 million (US$1.2 million) during the past few months, the company's Toboi Mill near Rabaul laid off more than half of its 140 employees.

Toboi Mill manager David Amour said the company had no choice but to lay off 80 workers.

"We tried our best to keep as many employees as possible, but the situation is beyond our control," he said.

The mill’s workers have not taken the move lying down.

They have publicly acknowledged that the company is not at fault and have taken up the issue with the provincial government.

They blame the Copra Marketing Board for exporting copra directly overseas, rather than through local buyers such as CPL.

The workers called for urgent intervention by the provincial and national governments.

Toboi Mill is the only private oil mill in the South Pacific and has been a major economic force in the country since it began production in 1953.

A skeleton staff will be maintained to honor current contracts.

The laid off workers may still be called back to work whenever there are jobs available or if there is adequate copra in stock to mill.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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