Oil palm and small holder farmers

Oil palm prices may hold up in the medium term, with strong demand from India and China. Yet, like other non-oil commodities, oil palm prices are likely to remain volatile, and to experience a long term relative price decline. (Chapter 3). World prices are not the main problem for small farmers in PNG. Three factors are likely to place a ceiling on the economic benefits for small farmers: (i) small farmers remain at the highly competitive end of a large grower market, with little market power, keeping them as ‘price takers’; (ii) a large monopsony (all
consuming), price-fixing corporate mill dominates small farmers, in the PNG ‘nucleus estate and smallholder’ model; and (iii) farmers in the export oriented oil palm business (unlike producers for local markets) are at the bottom end of a very long value chain, where other more powerful participants will always claim the largest ‘slice’ of value in the industry. (Chapter 3). International Finance Institutions (IFIs) – in particular the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank – AusAID and the PNG Government have subsidised and promoted involvement in oil palm in PNG. Their interests (eg. corporate profit, commodification of land and gaining foreign exchange) are not identical to those of small farmers. The IFIs have pushed the interests of foreign-dominated export industries, with less regard for small farmers. (Chapter 4.

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