George Leahy who owns and controls the sawmill at Baimuru (it’s been there since 1924) buys logs from the local villagers who fell and float them on the tides by way of delivery.
An old mate of mine in the sixties, and a colleague of the late Bertie Counsel, had a small 40-tonne barge on which he installed a simple sawbench. Occasionally, he would tour up and down the Era and Pie rivers, buying and milling timber which villagers had harvested and made ready for him. Cash in hand, as it was at the Baimuru mill.
The photo is of me and the late Sir Sinake Giregire and his old friend Tom-the-Jockey. Sinake was a great bloke; always short of smokes and beer, but likeable and highly intelligent with ideas and a presence which gave him authority.
Despite frequent criticism and whilst carrying its own load of problems, PNG's coffee industry is the nation's most successful vehicle for village subsistence farmers to earn a fair cash return - cash-in-the-hand for effort put in on their own land.
Fair, at any rate, when the road is open and rival raskolmangi are not out in numbers to stop a variety of buyers coming in to compete for the product at the roadside.
This is because the coffee-industry is free-enterprise, highly-competitive and controlled by the growers who elect seven of the 12 directors sitting on the Board of the Coffee Industry Council, the industry's regulatory body.
There are three government appointees on the Board, representing the Finance, Agriculture and Commerce Departments, leaving two other stakeholder groups, the factories and the exporters, who are not necessarily aligned with the growers.
For all its vicissitudes - occasional political interference and rip-offs like that perpetrated by the late Walter Perdacher of Mt Hagen who died owing the growers K47 million - this is a model enterprise for the villager.
Such a pity that the copra and cocoa industries can’t inject the same direction and energy into their Boards. But that’s another story.
Which brings me to the notion of a Timber Industry Corporation owned by provincial timber owners associations appointing a board of grower, government, mill, transport and export representatives.
Villages, clans or tribes with millable, harvestable timber on their land would appoint a trained forestry assessor to census, mark and satnav marked trees ready for felling.
The landowners would meet regularly to agree upon the trees to be felled and the split-up of proceeds after the timber was transported out and sold.
The timber would be felled and milled with a wokabaut somil owned by the group.
The product would be standard-size flitches for eventual breaking-down into desired sizes by end-users suitable for dragging or mini-tractor pulling to the roadhead.
A trade in container-lots of dried export flitches of named size and species could be developed by Board-licenced timber export companies (private and competitive, not centrally-controlled quasi-government shitfights).
Owners groups would sell to the licenced exporters either by tender per container lot as specified, or by monthly auction. Transport from roadhead or riverhead to the exporter would be the subject of separate negotiation.
Okay, it’s a vast and tangled bamboo jungle to negotiate, even considering existing vested interests and their political links, and a huge drafting job to build an Act and modify other Acts as necessary.
But, hell, it’s a really good idea, isn’t it? It’s not cargo-cult, though there are lots of pitfalls, so do spend some time thinking and talking and maybe getting heads together.