Vanuatu Copra Industry Allocated $375,483 In Subsidies

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Prices for coconut products reportedly fluctuating around nation

By Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 4, 2013) – Daily Post has been informed the Vanuatu Government, yesterday released Vt34 million [US$375,483] that will be used as copra subsidy.

The Ministry of Trade, Commerce, Industry and Tourism advises all copra buyers, exporters, shippers and copra vessels to raise the price of copra in line with a subsidy rate of Vt8,000 [US$88] per ton coming into effect today, December 20, 2012 and ensure it reaches the people in the islands.

This development will be welcome by all traders in the copra industry after feeling the brunt of the delayed copra subsidy for two months-reportedly the longest and lowest low since 2004.

Starting November calls were made to the government to address the fluctuating situation in the copra industry after copra traders and shippers were reduced to buying copra at Vt13,000 [US$143] per ton in the islands, on Litzlitz, Malekula a buyer was buying at Vt17,000 [US$187] per ton and on Santo Vt20,000 [US$220] per ton.

More recently a concerned copra farmer on Aore Island appealing to the government to release the subsidy revealed, "I reached the point where I was putting off paying my work boys and copra cutter two months running.

"I was paying Vt3,000 [US$33] per ton for green copra, calculated by the Vt20,000 per ton paying rate for dry copra in Luganville whereas before it was Vt5-6,000 [US$55 to US$66] per ton.

He recalled a similar situation in 2007 when the price was Vt17,000 per ton but only for a short period compared to the recent two months.

Prominent local businessman Sethy Lui who plied his trade in the copra industry told Daily Post just after the 2012 General Elections the low copra production reached a level not seen in the past six or seven years.

"In the past years we would normally buy 250- 300 metric tons of copra each week but now we are receiving about 10- 12 metric tons a week," he said.

"The shippers would go around in the islands and come with 200 bags which is not viable to their business.

"Copra farmers are reluctant to produce copra because the copra price is low. Copra farmers rely a lot on subsidy so the Government should come up quickly with a solution before Christmas and also for parents to prepare for 2013 school fees.

"I do not see any turn around in the World Market price until March 2013."

But chairman of the Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board (VCMB) Dick Tete informed as of yesterday the copra buyers should now be buying at Vt28,000 [US$309] per ton.

A further statement by the Ministry of Trade, Commerce, Industry and Tourism affirmed this after a meeting on Tuesday which looked at government assistance in the current low copra price affecting livelihood in the rural areas in light of the festive season and school fees in 2013.

It also considered the reimbursement of outstanding subsidy claims by copra exporters who have paid copra at the subsidy rate the last few months.

The meeting, which was called by Deputy Prime Minister Ham Lini agreed all outstanding subsidy claims by copra exporters be paid before the end of this week.

The subsidy rate of Vt8,000 means if the current purchasing price is Vt20,000 per ton copra buyers in Santo and Vila should be buying at Vt28,000 per ton.

The new subsidy price is effective today and ends on January 31, 2013.

Daily Post understands the VCMB portfolio has been transferred from the Prime Minister’s office to the Ministry of Trade.

A new VCMB Board will be appointed soon.

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