| My Land, My Country
LAE -The motorbike-riding Paradise Foods CEO, James Rich, has ridden his machine from Lae to Gembogl, travelled a portion of the mighty Sepik River, set foot on the banks of Lake Sirunki and admired the salt ponds in Enga.
His approach to living and working in Papua New Guinea has been refreshing for many of us who have grown weary of the negative attention of the media.
Initially, his trips out of Port Moresby were done with help from ‘inside.’
“We have 1,300 employees they’re from nearly every part of the country,” Rice tells me.
“I pick a place and they tell their family there, and I go. Papua New Guineans don’t like being surprised.
“I went to Fisherman Island. There are two ways to get there – one is from the Yacht Club; the other is to drive around and ask one of fisherman to take you there. The whole trip cost me K80.”
Rice has spent many Sundays attending church in settlements or villages.
“I was in Eight Mile settlement. My security guards invited me there. I was their guest.”
His social media posts about economic independence, manufacturing and localisation of jobs have made him, an unexpected sensation.
He has made it no secret that he wants to see all of Paradise Foods products made from locally sourced material.
More recently, Paradise Foods released its Sepik Original Vanilla ice cream with vanilla beans bought directly from the province that is PNG’s vanilla capital.
“We are localising our purchases item by item, and in this case it means buying vanilla in East Sepik for our vanilla ice cream.
“And we are proudly putting that on our label for everyone to know.”
Rice has also helped local packaging companies and ice cream cone-makers improve their capacity by establishing long term arrangements to buy from them.
He has said many times that PNG’s future is in agriculture and the development of its own people.
‘What do you want to leave behind when you go?’ I asked when he came to Lae.
“My legacy will be the number of jobs I create.
“My job should be held by a Papua New Guinean. Why shouldn’t it be?”