The European Union and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community have provided assistance to Amruqa – an exporting company in the East New Britain Province of Papua New Guinea – for upgrading its virgin coconut oil processing facility.
The upgraded facility will help improve efficiency and enable the company to produce up to ten tonnes of coconut oil per month for the export market.
The assistance, worth around USD 70,000, has been facilitated through the Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) project. This project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Land Resources Division of SPC.
Amruqa, which specialises in producing organically grown spices and essential oils, is one of the 42 enterprises around the Pacific to be assisted under the IACT project.
The company works with partner communities in the remote areas of East New Britain Province to promote ethical and sustainable agro-economic engagement, using organic certification and value-adding in order to maximise community benefit.
As part of the facility upgrade, coconut oil processing machinery and equipment were handed over by the representative of the European Union Delegation to Papua New Guinea, Elisabeth Gotschi, on 23 May 2014.
Speaking at the hand-over ceremony, Gotschi said that the European Union was proud to partner with SPC in supporting private sector enterprises like Amruqa. ‘I am especially impressed that Amruqa is not a company working alone but in fact is the processing and marketing arm of a much larger cooperative, serving the entire village and working with the business communities of Rabaul and Kokopo. Projects like this represent our mission – to improve livelihoods of people in Papua New Guinea,’ she said.
Gotschi said that competition in the global market remains tough, as many countries and producers are competing with each other to sell the same products.
In 2011, the European Union and Papua New Guinea signed the Economic Partnership Agreement, which opened up new EU markets for products made in Papua New Guinea. ‘Our aim is to work together with groups like Amruqa to help increase the production of world class agricultural exports in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific countries,’ she added.
She congratulated the provincial government and people of East New Britain, SPC, the IACT project and the owners and staff of Amruqa on their hard work and excellent collaboration with each other.
Gotschi also spoke briefly about the long relationship between the European Union and Papua New Guinea, emphasising that the country has signed the declaration of Cotonou and is part of a group of African Caribbean and Pacific countries that receive funding from the European Union for development.
The IACT project has been assisting Amruqa since 2012. Currently, the company supplies to key markets in Japan, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. IACT Team Leader, Samu Turagacati, explained that this assistance has not only helped improve the company’s productive capacity and product quality but is also providing further income-generating opportunities for the local communities of East New Britain.
He said that the equipment and machinery provided to the company will be used for processing high quality coconut oil that will meet international food safety standards. Acquiring such standards, he said, will open doors for the company to export to larger global markets. ‘I am sure that the timely intervention by the IACT project will enhance business prospects, survival and growth in general,’ Turagacati added.
Apart from Amruqa, the IACT project supports five other enterprises in Papua New Guinea. These are: EMP Coconut Products, PNG Balsa, Bougainville Seaweed Ltd, Agro Business Consultant Ltd and Sirinumu Dam Tilapia farmers.