How an export company became a thriving business
David James speaks to the owner of a thriving Bougainville export company on how to successfully establish a business.
Sankamap Exports was started in Bougainville in 2011. It exports copra and cocoa, and is described as the leading cocoa buyer on Buka Island. Founder Robert Critchley, who has a mother from Bougainville and an Australian father, says one of the keys to its success was establishing the right local business relationships.
He says he built a good network to help him establish his business.
“One of the most influential and important factors was securing a market and connecting to international investors.”
Critchley says he was able to attract seed capital from an investor.
“This allowed me to be more competitive against the existing buyers in Bougainville. Having a Bougainville mother also no doubt helped secure this market share.”
Critchley says the company exports on average 1500 to 2000 tonnes of dry copra a month. It also exports 30 to 60 tonnes of dry cocoa.
“We spend an average of PGK2000 per day on cocoa and copra purchased from the farmers.
“My company also employs over 100 employees, our workers.”
Critchley says the company has diversified into other business activities, including property construction. It has also moved
One of the most influential and important factors was connecting to international investors.
into shipping. Critchley says getting ships to come to Bougainville is problematic, and it is difficult to get shipping insurance.
He hopes that his shipping service will result in more competitive freight rates into Bougainville.
“Hopefully, with lower freight rates, it also lowers the cost of goods into Bougainville,” he says. “Bougainville has one of the highest cost of goods in PNG.”
Critchley is looking to add value to the cocoa and copra exports through downstream processing.
“I am also looking at opportunities in other export markets. Fisheries, logging and hopefully I will get into importing as well.”
Critchley says he is hoping to increase the numbers of supplying farmers and improve the service that he provides to them.
“This customer supply and orientation is key to business in Bougainville. Businesses are being built and there are opportunities for investors.”
Critchley is president of the Buka Business Association, which was established last year. He says the association is recognised by the Autonomous Region of Bougainville government as the voice of the private sector on the island.
“We know that the private sector needs a voice. The association exists to represent members’ views to the government, to build trade and investment networks, and to help business people to be compliant.”
Critchley acknowledges that forming the association has not been straightforward.
But he says participants eventually began to see the value in working together to influence policies and to network. There are now 40 members.
He says he is developing relationships with other business associations, both inside and outside PNG, to strengthen trade and investment.
“We are looking to learn from other associations. We also want to have all associations collaborate in establishing a Bougainville Business Association. Bougainville has come a long way and admittedly we have a long way to go if we are to increase the level of private investment.
“But I believe Bougainville has a bright future.”
Robert Critchley … says that establishing the right business relationships was important in setting up his copra and cocoa export company.