Dr Nelson Simbiken, the chief executive officer of the Papua New Guinea Spicy Industry Board (PNGSIB), says there is potential for corruption in the spice sector. Consequently, he wants to review the PNG Spice Industry Act of 1989 over the next couple of years and establish an authority.

Dr Simbiken said, “The spice industry board currently has to become an authority, so it can generate money for the government. Instead of depending on the government, we can look after ourselves. We live or die by the review of the establishment of the Act itself; it must be reviewed.”

His comments came following the arrest in Port Moresby of two PNGSIB officers for alleged fraud. A third officer from the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) was also arrested.

Although the Spice Industry Board has been in operation since 1989, from 2003, it had been working under DAL due to a lack of funding. This has been problematic for the sector. Simbiken said that all funds came to the department and were then transferred to the business operating account.

“Whatever little money DAL gets, it supports the spice industry board as a programme because we’re not getting sufficient support from the government in terms of goods and services, personnel emoluments and others,” he said.

Dr Simbiken stressed the need for a review of the Act, saying, “Although we have an Act, it is an outdated one; market trends have changed.”

He noted that nearly all provinces now planted vanilla, with the exception of Hela, Enga, and the Southern Highlands.

“Vanilla is now the country’s leading spice product. Since 2018, PNG has been exporting 400 metric tonnes of vanilla annually, and it is bringing in over K300 million each year. It is comparable to cocoa, coffee and copra, so vanilla is a major industry in the country now.”

Image caption: Vanilla in Papua New Guinea