Government to subsidise copra price

Vanuatu’s Council of Ministers has decided to subsidise the price of copra to assist coconut farmers, as the Government turns its focus onto lifting agricultural production.

The decision, made earlier this month, will see the Government contributing a subsidy of VT10,000 per ton to buyers purchasing copra from Vanuatu’s coconut farmers.

With the price of copra now at VT30,000 per ton, the new subsidy will mean copra sellers will receive VT40,000 per ton.

The Luganville-based Vanuatu Copra and Cocoa Exporters company is the biggest copra and cocoa buyer in Vanuatu.

Director, Dyson Wilson, says the company hopes to start buying copra for the higher price from next week.

However, Mr Wilson says buyers are still waiting for the subsidy to come into effect, and until then they will continue to buy copra at the old price of VT30,000 per tonne.

Mr Wilson says the subsidy will provide important support to coconut farmers. He believes it will help farmers cover the high costs of transporting copra to markets.

“Many of our farmers live in remote areas and some have to transport their produce by boat to a public road before a transport vehicle can pick up the copra for the buyers,” he says.

“So, the logistic costs for these farmers are very high. But with the new copra price, I believe they will be able to make a good income.”

Mr Wilson says while the Government will support copra buyers through the new subsidy, Vanuatu Copra and Cocoa Exporters, as a private company, needs to to also find a way to help the farmers.

“For ourcompany, we will provide the farmers with assistance to transport their produce,” he said.

The Council of Ministers has approved an amount of VT300 million to be given to the agriculture sector to improve production. The Press Officer from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, Gordon Narnhambat, says half of that amount will go to support copra production in Vanuatu.

A coconut farmer in northwest Malekula, Edna Morobun, says the new subsidy is good news.

“Now that the copra price will increase to VT40,000, we are happy about it,” she said.

She says, “This will help us a lot especially for us paying school fees for our children.”

Mrs Morobun says when the subsidy come into effect, many farmers will have more interest in producing copra.

She says when the copra price is low as it is now, many farmers lose interest in producing copra because they find it very difficult to get enough money to cover the costs of living, in particular, paying for school fees and household needs.

Mrs Morobun says another problem has been that after Cyclone Harold many coconut trees were ripped down and farmers are still in the process of replanting trees.

Jimson Vanua, a coconut farmer in South Santo, says copra producers in his area have not been producing much copra because of the low price. He says local farmers tend to focus more on kava production.

“But this is good news, now the kava price has dropped some farmers will work on copra,” he said.

There are around five copra buyers operating in the Vanuatu’s northern provinces.

The leading copra producing provinces in Vanuatu are Torba, Sanma, Malampa and Penama.

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