Place: Guadalcanal Plains, Development
After the Second World War, when Honiara was established, one of the government's goals was to encourage agricultural development of the Guadalcanal Plains, which are virtually unique in the Pacific Islands because of the large, level areas with evenly-distributed, good quality soil. Levers Pacific Plantations Pty. Ltd. (q.v.) had coconut plantations there, and in 1964 the Commonwealth Development Corporation (q.v.) leased land on the plains to develop wet and dry rice and oil palm plantations. This was followed in 1965 by the announcement of a new company under the direction of local businessman Kenneth Houston Dalrymple Hay. Hay's Guadalcanal Plains Ltd. (GPL), with a nominal capital of £750,000, began to develop the plains for rice, soya bean, sorghum and beef cattle. When questioned in the Legislative Council about the alienation of the plains, Director of Agriculture F. N. Spooner said that the government had reserved six thousand acres on the eastern side of the Balesuna River for a Solomon Islander settlement scheme.
In late 1965, GPS received a thirty-three-year lease over four thousand acres and prepared seven hundred acres for dry rice, soya beans, and sorghum, as well as introduced Hereford cattle. The soya beans were exported. Dry rice planted by the firm increased from seventy-two acres in 1965, to 371 in 1967 and two thousand in 1968. The yield was 2,700 pounds of unhusked rice to the acre. (NS 7 May 1967; NS 20 Oct. 1967) The company also owned the Mendana Hotel (q.v.), a store and butchery, and Tetere Rice Plantation. The first dry rice crop at Matapono produced two hundred tons, which were sold in Honiara in mid-1966, with investigations underway to develop an irrigated rice scheme. (NS 27 July 1966) Dry rice was rotated with soya beans. There were several Australia-based directors, including W. F. Moses, E. T. Sly, F. B. Moses, from a New South Wales grazing family, David Thompson, a partner in stockbroking firm Ors, Minnett and Thompson of Sydney, and Mr Pennyfather, a Hereford cattle breeder from Victoria.
In 1966, the government invited applications for the lease of another 4,600 acres on the plains, with thirty-nine-year leases at forty-five cents an acre per year, with an option to extend them for another thirty-five years, and GPL took this up. Rice exports firmed up in 1969 when 200 tons of brown rice was exported to Fiji. (NS 15 Feb. 1969)
In 1971, the Mendana Hotel was divided off into a separate company from GPL. (NS 30 June 1971) The rice project was also split away from the central company and GPL Agriculture Ltd. Chairman of the Board R. B. Raines said a new source of capital had been brought in to extend the rice project. Wet rice was now the main rice crop, and the company expected that 4,000 pounds of paddy rice would be produced in 1971, and that it would irrigate five thousand acres. (NS 30 June 1971) The company also produced sweet potato for the local market, raised cattle, and operated Ilu Farm (q.v.), which it had purchased from the government. Two thousand laying birds produced a thousand eggs each day, and there was a potential daily market for 1,500.
In September 1973, GPL was taken over by the Mindoro International Corporation, a company based in Millersville near Philadelphia in the United States. This company hired Hawaiian Agronomics to operate GPL's rice and other agricultural operations, and in May 1974 it announced expansion plans worth $2.3 million. It would increase rice production by five times, treble the cattle herd, increase pig and poultry production and begin to produce farmed seafood. Then, in October 1974, GPL went into receivership, the petition to close down the company filed by R. A. Lawson, the Resident Manager of C. Sullivan (exports) Pty. Ltd. In February of 1975, GPL was taken over by Brewer Group, in a new company known as Brewer Solomons Associate. (SND 25 Oct. 1974, 28 Feb. 1975)
In 1970, the government reached agreement with the Commonwealth Development Corporation to establish an eight thousand acre oil palm project between the Nalimbiu and Mberande Rivers on the Guadalcanal Plains. It was expected that the factory could begin to operate in five years. The company was to be known as the Solomon Islands Plantation Ltd. (q.v.), under a joint partnership between Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) and the BSIP Government. The initial cost, to be provided by the Corporation, was expected to be six million dollars, with around eight hundred employees in the early stages. The decision to proceed was based on trail plantings begun in 1965. (NS 15 June 1965, 31 Oct. 1965, 7 May 1966, 7 Oct. 1966, 15 Oct. 1970; Kendrick 1968)
- Solomons News Drum, 1974-1982. Details
- British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details
- Kendrick, A.R., 'Large Scale Agriculture on the Guadacanal Plains', World Crops, vol. 20, no. 6, 1968, pp. 48-50. Details