Copra makers who have been waiting months for payment received some good news this week: The government released subsidy funding last week to Tobolar so it can clear off an estimated $300,000 backlog in payments due to copra makers.
New R&D Minister Alfred Alfred, Jr. said the Cabinet worked with the Ministry of Finance to advance third and fourth quarter subsidy funding for Tobolar to solve its immediate debts to copra makers and provide for some additional funding for the next wave of vessels going to outer islands to collect copra. The Nitijela in the FY2016 budget included a $1.2 million copra subsidy, which is normally paid in quarterly increments to Tobolar.
“Tobolar can pay all (copra maker debts) by this Friday,” said Alfred. “This gives some breathing room for high-level decisions to be made for longer-term solutions.”
But, added Alfred, “it’s a long way to the end of the current fiscal year. We need to put money on boats (going to outer islands). We need a permanent fix for it.” One challenge in the mix is that it takes time for Tobolar to build up sufficient coconut oil volume to justify a visit by a tanker for off-island export. An estimated $1 million worth of oil is presently in Tobolar tanks, Alfred said. It takes time to sell and get paid for oil, he said.
This is why Alfred is keen to expand the process already started recently by Tobolar of producing refined and virgin coconut oil products, which are higher value.
Read more about this in the February 12, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.