An appetite for growth


Papua New Guinea food producer Trukai Industries (‘trukai’ means ‘good food’ in tok pisin) achieved a notable breakthrough at the end of 2007 when it began exporting long-grain rice to drought-stricken Australia, in spite of the fact that PNG grows little rice of its own.

The raw material is imported from Thailand then processed in PNG before being shipped to distributor SunRice in Australia. Trukai’s rice mill in PNG’s industrial heartland of Lae has been upgraded to conform to Australian standards. The mill is also now capable of 24-hour production, which allows it to supply the demands of home and overseas markets. The deal created many new jobs and the company now employs 950 people – up from just 400 five years ago.

Trukai Industries has been a leading producer and marketer of a range of foods since 1970 and while it is best known for its rice, Chief Executive Officer Phil Franklin points out that the company’s scope is actually much wider: ‘We import 200,000 tonnes of rice a year, of which 37,000 tonnes are exported around Oceania. We grow 1.2 million tonnes of sweet potatoes, 300,000 tonnes of taro, 200,000 tonnes of bananas. So rice is a small part of the market.’

Furthermore, in the Markham Valley, close to Lae, the Trukai Agribusiness keeps approximately 7000 Brahman cattle that are bred for the local market. It also conducts research and training in rice production and is investigating how to rebuild PNG’s once significant peanut industry.

‘We are now looking at being involved in other Pacific markets. We are flexible in that we can do short runs and also print packaging onshore. We have upskilled our labour and are also capable of producing the high-quality product that the more sophisticated markets demand,’ adds Franklin.

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