Friday, May 2, 2008

Movement on reopening the largest copra estate

High world prices for coconut oil have helped copra (and cocoa) make a "record breaking" contribution to the economy in 2007. According to the General Manager of the national export and marketing authority,

...over 19-thousand tonnes of copra and more than four-thousand tonnes of cocoa were produced and exported. ..He says this is an impressive 45 percent increase in the export value earned in 2006.

These high prices and search for large scale export projects may have prompted this week's action to revoke the work permit of the manager of country's largest copra plantation, RIPEL:
In Solomon Islands the long drawn out dispute over the Russell Islands Plantation Limited issue has resulted in the Managing Director of RIPEL, John Whiteside, being declared persona non grata by the government.
According to government, Mr Whiteside was an obstacle to negotiations to restart operations, which were halted in 2004 by industrial action.
Mr Whiteside has been considered a obstacle by government to resolving the industrial dispute case between the company and the workers resulting in thousands of workers being without pay for years.
At its peak, RIPEL employed more than 1000 workers and was the leading producer of copra in the country. A return to production has been a priority for successive governments since closure in 2004, with the current government making specific emphasis on reopening in its 2008 platform document.