Israeli firm keen to deliver multi-million Kina project

The Innovative Agro Industry Ltd (IAI) and several partners will be involved in a multi-million Kina coffee project soon to be rolled out in Hela Province.

A team from IAI was recently in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, on Tuesday 23 October to meet with officials from the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) to discuss the imminent project.

The company, backed by Israel’s LR Group, was led by Chief Executive Officer Lior Crystal and a high powered team of scientists, extensionists, agronomists and an economist.

They were welcomed by CIC CEO Charles Dambui and met with the senior management team.

The group was able to visit a CIC’s Productive Partnership in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP) Lead Partner, Hataville Coffee Ltd, at Asaro Valley, implementing some coffee rehabilitation work in the area.

They also travelled to Ipagu Plantation to see first-hand a wet and dry coffee processing factory.

Crystal said the company had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ExxonMobil, Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) and the district and provincial governments of Hela to formalise plans for this massive coffee development project.

He said it will be a large scale project looking at planting 15 million coffee trees. He added that it was a timely visit to Goroka to meet with the CIC management to exchange and share ideas on the current status of the industry and how this project aims to address some of the issues.

This project is expected to create employment for 5,000 people in Hela. Also, the project anticipates to address coffee development and marketing issues starting in Hela and to roll out to other coffee growing provinces.

The IAI is an affiliate of the Israeli based LR-group that has been implementing projects world-wide for 35 years.

“We came into PNG in late 2011 realising mainly the potential in agriculture and we have started projects in Port Moresby (Nine-Mile farm), poultry and vegetable projects in Hela and another vegetable project in Sirungki, Enga Province.”

He said to date, IAI has invested close to K80 million in PNG with their focus on addressing logistical issues, one of the main constraints faced by farmers in rural PNG.

He added the company not only concentrates on agriculture but does projects in the fields of renewable energy, infrastructure, hospitals and addressing market constraints as well.

Crystal stated their focal point of operation is in agriculture because this is where they see the opportunity, where they can implement their know-how on how to establish projects at the highest standard and the best technology tailored and designated to actually work in different areas of PNG.

Dambui said CIC is open to contribute technical advice primarily on market accessibility, which is very important in this investment.

Dambui outlined some of the challenges which include climate change, poor rural infrastructures, law and order problems, lack of credit facilities, socioeconomic and cultural implications, among others.

Project Manager of CIC-PPAP Potaisa Hombunaka said the involvement of Israeli experts in the coffee industry will contribute meaningfully to the growth of an important sector in the medium to long term.

Hombunaka said in Hela, they plan to plant 15 million seedlings within the next 5-6 years with added advantage of using higher technologies to improve the productivity of coffee trees.

He added it is envisaged that after 5-6 years, they will produce and export minimum of 200,000 green bean bags annually. At an average price of K300 per bag this would bring in K60 million per year in foreign exchange.

“This is something positive for the industry and we are optimistic about the outcome of this meeting with IAI,” said Hombunaka.     

Press release