PNG FARMERS STRUGGLE WITH POOR POWER SUPPLY

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 5) – PNG Power Limited is destroying business structure with unreliable service in rural towns, coupled with load shedding in major cities, says Alele Farm Fresh Produce Limited managing director Graham Ross.

Mr Ross, who is a member of the Rural Industries Council board, said Alele had been recording a 60 per cent loss factor every week from vegetables destroyed due to unreliable power supply from PNG Power.

Despite this poor service, PNG Power was still issuing 48-hour disconnection notices to the company in Lae without providing an invoice statement, arguing instead that payments be made before an invoice was issued, he said.

Alele, owned by five Milne Bay women, buys fresh vegetables from village farmers, much of this coming from the Highlands region.

To explain how the losses were being incurred, Mr Ross recounted that on the weekend of October 27-28, company staff were in the Highlands where they bought about 14 tonnes (about K40,000 worth) of mixed vegetables over four days and stored it in Mt Hagen where they had a refrigerated container.

"We had just finished loading the container – an K80,000 container with computerised temperature control – when the power went off, then came back on for 10 minutes and then went off again,’’ he said.

"A truck loaded the container and left for Goroka, arriving there at about 2am, seven hours later and there was no power in Goroka.

"Power was restored to Goroka at 6am, but went off again an hour later, and the temperature had risen to 14 degrees. There was no water in town because there was no power for the pumps and we could not wash.

"We left for Lae and arrived in the evening, and again there was no regular power, and the temperature in the container was now 18 degrees. We then had to take the container straight to the wharf where there was auxiliary power," Mr Ross said.

He said he was now waiting to see what condition the vegetables would be in when they arrive in Port Moresby, but expects much of it to be spoiled.

"We have come to expect a 60 per cent loss factor from every shipment, and that’s about K20,000 lost every week - a loss directly due to unreliable power supply from PNG Power. They’re destroying the business structure in PNG in a very big way,’’ he said."It’s not just happening to us - there are shops out there with rotting goods in their freezers because PNG Power cannot supply power," Mr Ross said.

Mr Ross said five years ago, the company was paying K400 on bills for power that was there.

"Now we are paying K2500 a month for less service. When is the private sector going to get support from the Government’s service providers?" he asked.

Mr Ross also lamented the fact that vegetable prices had remained stagnant for 10 years and the costs of production and transport had risen considerably.

This was unfair on the farmers and the companies who bought their produce, because "as soon as we raise the prices to cover our costs, the supermarkets rush off to Australia to buy vegetables".

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