Minister of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration Elijah Doro Muala made this clarification yesterday following concerns by local exporters when the granting of the license was announced last week.
He explained that it must be clear that
the exemption is granted to Pacific Exporters Limited (PEL) a joint venture
local venture company incorporated in Solomon Islands with 51 percent (local)
and 49 percent (foreign).
"To say that PEL is fully foreign owned company is misleading.
"This is a company with majority
shareholders by Solomon Islanders and it would only be fair ad just that we do
not deny every Solomon Islanders' rights with an opportunity to engage in
He said the company is not exempted from CEMA Act, neither from any other legislation that as claimed by the exporters and their rep.
"The PEL is only exempted from Schedule four (4) to the Act not from the CEMA Act.
"Schedule four (4) of the CEMA Act,
in my opinion only dealt with qualifying conditions for new and renewal of
"The company is duty bound to comply
with the law of this country including CEMA act and other regulations therein
including paying license fees, taxes and other requirements.
"Schedule four is a qualifying requirement for obtaining cocoa export license.
"Information before me provided to the CEMA board by the company had satisfied the minimum requirements under the Schedule four (4) of the Act but the Board decided to continuously defer the application.
"Whilst the Pacific Exporters Limited has satisfied requirements set out in Schedule four (4) the board continuous deferment of the applications despite the ministry's request to decide on the matter rather than holding the applicants in suspension is questionable.
"Continious deferment and never ending requests for additional information from the company for than three (3) months is a breach against the CEMA Act which CEMA board must uphold at all times.
"Not only that but it is also time
consuming and costly to companies both local and foreigners by continue
delaying decision with no proper reasons at all."
The minister said the exporter's outburst
against the ministry's action to exempt PEL from Schedule four (4) to the CEMA
Act is a move to block Solomon Islanders and potential cocoa farmers from entering
into cocoa trading both locally and overseas.
"It is basically to protect existing
curtail on cocoa export trade and not for the interest of the cocoa industries,
the country and rural cocoa farmers throughout the country.
"Farmers have been victimised by
underpricing offered by the existing exporters and by their limited capacity to
provide farmers in remote parts of the country where exporters hardly buy from
Mr Muala said it is undeniable that
existing cocoa exporters are all based in Honiara.
He added rarely do they provide services
in provinces like Temotu, Isabel, Western and Choiseul.
"To say there are no cocoa farmers
in these provinces is incorrect.
"There are cocoa farmers in many
parts of the country including these provinces.
"They missed out from the benefits
those farmers who are close and do have access to few exporters in Honiara
enjoyed in the past many years.
"Lack of reliable market
infrastructures and buyers to provide needed services to cocoa farmers in
remote rural areas had resulted in rural farmers giving up to continue farming
cocoa trees," he said.
Before arriving in this decision he said
he had consulted relevant authorities including farmers who found themselves
stranded in Honiara just to travel to Honiara to sell their products.
"Given this scenario and if you are
farmers which option would you take?
"To have more options where you
would sell your products and receive better price for your cocoa products or
receive low price and stranded in Honiara?
"The arguments advanced by few
exporters that by exempting Pacific Exporters Limited from Schedule four (4)
will kill our local exporters is not true for the opposite is true.
"This decision will encourage and increase active participation by rural communities, villages and individual in cocoa industries starting from farming, processing and marketing.
"In turn it will increase cocoa bean
export volume therefore increase opportunities for our local exporters and will
fuel expansion of their business operation into other parts of the country.
"The ministry of commerce, industry, labour and immigration is looking at a broader participations and impact such decision will have on the country's economy starting from rural population."
The minister said he welcomes
investigation called by the existing cocoa exporters into the decision he made
for an on behalf of silent majority cocoa farmers out there in rural areas.
"Infact given the strong opposition from exporters I am considering to conduct a nationwide consultation with rural farmers including cocoa farmers in order to hear their ongoing cries for better and reliable market outlets for the commodities."
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