PT Medco Papua to clear 2000 hectares for rice cultivation

PT Medco Papua will start to plant rice on 2000 hectares of land around several villages in Kurik District, Merauke. The company is currently making all necessary preparations including land-clearing and producing seedlings.

The head of Kurik District, Stefanus Kagoup said to on Friday 17th October that the company had already paid ‘tali asih’ [compensation paid to indigenous landowners] money to several clans including Mahuze, Basik-Basik, Kaize and Ndiken some time ago. “I don’t remember the precise value of the tali asih money that was given”, he said.

Despite this, he claimed that this didn’t mean the land now belonged to the company. However it would be contracted for a period of approximately 30 years. After this it will be returned to the community who are the customary landowners.
It was mentioned that one of the points of agreement was that the company would give 20 kilograms of rice from each hectare to the customary landowners. “This will be obligatory every time the company harvests the land,” he said.

Kagoup made clear that he had made sure the company would have to prioritise recruitment of local Papuan people starting from the land clearing process and preparing seedlings, through to cultivation and harveting.

“I made that ultimatum to the company. It means that local people, specifically indigenous Papuans, must be empowered to work on their own land. They cannot just become spectators”, he underlined.

A member of the Merauke District Legistlative Council (DPRD), Soter Kamiawi, said that although the company would clear land to plant rice, the issue of the community’s rights must be resolved first of all.

Aside from that, Soter continued, it was important to also consider indigenous Papuans when recruiting workers. They are the customary land rights holders, and should be empowered directly.

Source: Tabloid Jubi:

[awasMIFEE note. Medco was one of the companies which most actively promoted the MIFEE concept, and originally planned to develop a wide rang of crops in the area. However, only their industrial forestry businesss, producing woodchips for export, ever got beyond the demonstration-plot level. This too was forced to halt operations several months ago as it was not producing a profit. So far we have no more details of this new rice plan, but it seems that it may be the first large-scale corporate investment in food-crop agriculture in Merauke(not counting oil palm and sugar-cane). Needless to say, even if Medco sticks by its promises to employ Papuans in its rice estate, they would still dependent on the company, and therefore in a much weaker position than if they had been ’empowered’ to cultivate their own land directly as peasant farmers rather than company labourers.]

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