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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 8) - The newest player in Papua New Guinea’s multi-million-kina oil palm sector is set to produce its first crude palm oil next month.

Ramu Agri-Industries Ltd, a subsidiary of sugar company Ramu Sugar Ltd (RSL), is on target to produce its first crude palm oil next month after work is completed on an oil palm mill.

"It is my pleasure to report to you that our oil palm mill is nearing completion and we expect the first oil to be produced in December. The prospects for oil palm look very promising. So much so your board has decided to approve an increase in the planted area from 5,500ha to 7,500ha. This will enable us to increase the throughput of our mill from 30 tons per hour to 45 tons per hour," said RSL board chairman Peter Colton recently at a shareholder meeting in Port Moresby.

There are also plans to increase the size of the existing 7,00ha plantation in the Dumpu to Walium area in the Morobe and Madang provinces, as part of phase two of the project.

The price for crude palm oil in Europe has been at a record high with industry analysts forecasting a price of between US$600 to US$700 [PGK1,688 to PGK1,969] per ton for crude palm oil, an opportunity that Mr. Colton said should not be missed.

"When your board approved the diversification into oil palm it was on the expectation that the price would be around US$450 [PGK1,266] per ton. A price better than this will make the investment even more beneficial to you the shareholders," he said.

But the company has hit a snag over attempts to increase the size of the 100ha plantation currently held by village farmers to 750ha under the out-grower development program due to land disputes.

"I am disappointed that the involvement of village farmers is not proceeding as quickly as we would like. The reason for the slowness relates to land disputes. Some of these disputes are between families and would be relatively easy to resolve," Colton said.

It seems the Government is unable to help landowners resolve the dispute, compelling the company to recruit an experienced lands officer.

"I believe this will speed up the involvement of village farmers in both the Madang and Morobe provinces," he added.

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