BY LORETTA BRIGIDIA MANELE
COCOA farmers of Makira-Ulawa will now have the opportunity to be part of and benefit from social and economic opportunities of Solomon Islands first cocoa mill project in the province.
On October 23, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Ministry of Commerce Industries and Labor (MCILI), Makira Ulawa Provincial Government (MUPG), Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination (MDPAC) and private business entity Pinihimae and Associated Groups (PAG) to mark the birth of “Lavado Cocoa Mill” project in Kirakira.
Speaking during the occasion was guest speaker and minister for Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration, William Bradford Marau.
He said the project marks a successful partnership between the national and provincial governments and an indigenous private business whom will be involved in making a well downstream processing mill to market unique products of lavado oil, cocoa and roasted beans derived from the natural and organic cocoa resources from cocoa farmers in Makira-Ulawa province.
“This project will address economic and social investment which is important for the future of Solomon Islands and especially for the cocoa farmers and their families and the good people of Makira-Ulawa province,” said Marau.
He also stated that the project is not a stand-alone project as it complements and links with various key existing plans, reforms and strategies such as the National Development Strategy, the Makira-Ulawa Strategic Policy, Medium Term Development Plan and most of all, the Provincial Government Strengthening Programme.
Marau expressed that the project came about from constructive discussions, consultations and analysis with various stakeholders from 2017 till present.
He described it as one that is focused on driving forward and boosting the economy and social safeguards of the provincial government, private sector and people of Makira.
Marau noted that this investment will encourage partnership between various stakeholders and provide employment opportunities in the medium and long term.
He stressed that while the national government will support the project where it can, to ensure the project continues and provides services to identified stakeholders this will require the management and leadership of managing director of a private indigenous business, Mr Alick Pinihimae in the project as well as support from current and future provincial executives if Makira-Ulawa.
The Member of Parliament for Ulawa-Ugi assured the Premier of Makira provincial government, Stanley Siapu that the national government encourages private sector development and will accommodate good business environment for any local and foreign investor who is willing to do business and provide essential market services to their trading partners in Makira-Ulawa province, in Solomon Islands and abroad.
He also expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Agriculture (MAL) and Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination (MDPAC) for their leadership and involvement in the project.