The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock will soon release funds for successful applicants for "The Support to Rehabilitation of the Copra and Cocoa Industries".

This follows the closure of the application process on Friday 28 September.

Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, Edward Kingmele said over 200 farmers from five provinces including Malaita, Makira, Isabel, Guadalcanal and Central Islands will be assisted from a total funding of 3 million dollars.

He said other remaining provinces will be included in the 2008 budget for the same project.

The National Parliament this year has approved the first five provinces with Malaita, Makira and Isabel being allocated $750 thousands dollars each, while Guadalcanal was given an allocation of $500 thousand and Central islands Province $250 thousand.

Mr Kingmele said there were hundreds of applications from the first five provinces which makes it impossible for the government to fund all application projects from the present funding allocation of $3 million.

"All the project proposals received were thoroughly checked and appraised by the Agriculture Field Officers from these provinces."

"These project proposals were all sent back to the Ministry of Agriculture Planning Office for final consideration before the application period closed on Friday," he said.

The National Project Committee had approved the first lot of projects for each of the five provinces which were then documented for the first tranche payment.

"It has been a very difficult exercise to accommodate every location but we pleased that all efforts have been made to ensure each constituency is represented in this allocation," Mr Kingmele said.

The funds will cover different components of cocoa and copra production which include construction of new driers, tools and materials for rehabilitation of plantations, trading and storage, expansion and replanting and the processing of coconut into copra and coconut oil and other cocoa products.

Mr Kingmele said preparations of funding documents will take at least two weeks before payments are made to successful farmers.

"It is expected that the funding process will continue and should be completed by November," he said.
The names of successful farmers will be published shortly in the print media for clarification purposes.

Mr Kingmele further explained that successful farmers will sign and MOU to assure the government that the funds are for the purposes of the project.

"Should there be misappropriation, the farmer may be required to refund the whole amount of money," he said.

Agriculture field officers in the provinces will monitor the implementation of the projects.

"Should farmers need technical assistance and advise, the officers will be there to help them," Mr Kingmele said.

The Ministry of Agriculture will also be monitoring the production of both copra and cocoa to ensure that the funds were spent for their intended purpose.

"We expect to see an increase in production from December and whole of next year," Mr Kingmele said.

Mr Kingmele was thankful for the generous assistance of the Republic of China (Taiwan) for funding the project.