By DALE LUMA
James Graham believes there is a huge opportunity to develop agriculture further in the country.
The former New Britain Palm Oil Ltd chief executive officer has served the company and the agriculture sector for 32 years.
He is returning to his family in Queensland, Australia. He is originally from Aberdeenshire in Scotland.
His father was a British army officer who served in other countries such as Kenya, Germany, Singapore and Australia. His mother is a retired medical general practioner.
“When I left school, I had a Gap Year teaching English as a second language in Sudan. The experience gave me an insight into the challenges of emerging economies and the importance of agriculture in improving the wealth of developing nations.”
So when he returned home, he enrolled in the North of Scotland College of Agriculture in Aberdeen and gained a Higher Diploma in Agriculture.
He later got a Masters in Management degree for Agricultural Development at the University of Cranfield.
In July 1988, he left his work as a supervisor on a pig farm outside Aberdeen to take up the position of assistant manager with Harrisons & Crosfield (PNG) Pty Ltd. It had at that time controlling share of New Britain Palm Oil Development Ltd.
“ I have made lifelong friends among Papua New Guineans and people from other countries who have come to work here.”
He is married to Kelly, an Australian who renovates houses in Queensland. They met in PNG and had six children who grew up and attended school in West New Britain.
“They are all adults now, pursuing their own careers in Australia.”
When he joined the company in 1988, it had only two crude palm oil processing mills, 13,000 hectares of oil palm in West New Britain, 560 hectares of arabica coffee in Western Highlands and one coffee factory.
It now has a land bank of more than 162,300 hectares.
“This includes 92,000 hectares of planted oil palm plantations, a further 10,000 hectares under preparation for oil palm, over 7,600 hectares of sugar cane, 26,000 head of cattle, 12 oil mills, one sugar factory, two abattoirs and two copra mills. We operate in seven provinces in PNG and in the Solomon Islands.”
He also worked in the coffee business in Western Highlands and at Ramu Agri Industries as general manager for seven years.
In 2015, he was transferred by the new owners Sime Darby Plantation to Malaysia as Head Plantation Operations Upstream Malaysia.
He returned to PNG after three years to be chief executive officer.
“There is a growing demand for agricultural products and NBPOL remains committed to developing agriculture in PNG.”
He is particularly proud of the company’s sustainability credentials.
“Achieving number one ranking in November last year for the Zoological Society of London’s Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit for palm oil producers is a great credit to the company and to the nation.
“We are not perfect and we still have much to do, however we are undeniably a world leader in sustainable palm oil. There are enormous challenges, land tenure issues prevent opportunities in agricultural development.”
James takes back home with him many happy memories of life in PNG.
“I have made lifelong friends among Papua New Guineans and people from other countries who have come to work here.
“There is great beauty in the landscape both in the mainland, especially the Highlands and much of the New Guinea Islands remain pristine.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed going to many of the cultural shows, whether they be provincial or ones held on the plantations. The sound and colour of the singsing groups are truly unique.”
Lifelong memories of PNG – a small gift for his three decades of service. Tenk u tru, James!