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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 7, 2001 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guineans exporting vanilla to Indonesian-ruled West Papua have been losing thousands of kina to Indonesian military, police and customs through confiscation or enforced low prices.

It is costing them up to 25 percent of the value of their product, according to information obtained by the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier.

In recently documented cases in Jayapura, capital of what Indonesia calls its province of Irian Jaya:

The best price for vanilla in Jayapura at present is anything from K 250 to K 300 (US$ 74,75 – US$ 89.70) per kilogram.

One exporter told the Post-Courier that due to the tensions between the military and police, a vanilla exporter could give a cut to a soldier and despite some form of documentation have to do the same for a policeman.

Jayapura is attractive for exporters because they can often bargain with the buyers and some payments are received in the stronger U.S. dollar currency.

Data complied by the Sandaun Administration show that in the six months to June, 13.58 tons of vanilla beans had been exported out of Vanimo and Wutung ports which at an average price of K 230 (US$ 68.77) would have brought in K 3.24 million (US$ 978,760) to the exporters. The number of exporters has varied from eight in one month to 35 altogether.

Some of those are from the Highlands while others are from the Mamose region.

Trade and Industry Minister Tukape Masani initially was made aware of the problem on Wednesday during a meeting with Sandaun Administration officials related to the Vanimo Free Trade Zone.

Mr. Masani had immediately requested documentation for him to present to Agriculture and Livestock Minster Muki Taranupi as well as Foreign Affairs Minister John Pundari for a possible diplomatic protest to the Indonesian government through the Indonesian Embassy.

A copy of the letter seen by the Post-Courier indicates concern about the "harassment of our exporters by the Indonesian police, military and customs."

"Time and time again we have received reports of vanilla being confiscated or certain percentages (between 5-25 percent) of exportable beans taken by the military, police or the customs even though normal export procedures have been followed on our side for vanilla exports," according to the letter signed by a senior official.

"The vanilla exporters have been robbed and cheated and I am very concerned about such uncalled (for) and unscrupulous actions of the military, police and customs of the Republic of Indonesia."

The letter named three exporters but indicated that it was quite possible others had been harassed in similar circumstances but did not report the matter to PNG authorities.

It also estimated that the actual value of vanilla exports could be as high as K 5 million (US$ 1,495,000).

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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