By Malum Nalu (The National, September, 13 2012)
The energy and enthusiasm of young couple Max Puritau and his wife Stefi Temelloso at the PNG Made Expo at the PNG Advantage investment conference at the Gateway Hotel earlier this week won the admiration of many visitors to their booth.
Puritau – at the ripe old age of 25 – has taken over running the family company, Paradise Spices, from his father, Micky, and now exports PNG vanilla, chilli, pepper, galip nut, cardamom, tumeric, nutmeg, cocoa nibs, ginger, cinnamon, virgin coconut oil, and pure vanilla extract to many countries around the world. Paradise Spices also produces its own brand of bottled water – Life — which is sold in major supermarkets in PNG.
The company buys raw material from provinces around the country — from chilli and cardamom in Chimbu, galip nuts in Milne Bay, to vanilla in Western, which it processes at its factory in Gordon for export and domestic supply.
“In April this year, I bought off the business from dad,” Puritau, who was groomed by his father in the business, says. “I own 50% of the company now. My mum owns the other 50%. So, basically, I’m the sole working director now. I’m currently working with my wife, Steffi Temelloso, who is also the operations manager and the sales and marketing manager.”
The history of Paradise Spices goes back some 20 years ago in the Puritau’s village in Lalaura, Abau, Central, when founder Micky Puritau ventured into mango farming. “We started in mango farming and exported to Taiwan,” the younger Puritau said. “That all started from Lalaura in the Abau district of Central. “That was until there was a court case with the village people. They actually took him to court but he won the court case and got the land that was argued about.
“About 2ha of that land is now used for vanilla growing. We get our vanilla supplies from there when we are short. It produces about 500kg of vanilla beans every six months.”
Puritau says he is adding a completely new approach to the company with his youth and enthusiasm. “The basic idea of the whole business now is to try and create new products using PNG-grown crops. Currently, we are buying and selling vanilla beans, bird’s eye chilli, galip nuts, white pepper, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, cocoa nibs, ginger, cinnamon, and virgin coconut oil. We also have a new range of purified water in 500ml bottles and the vanilla extract.” Paradise Spices’ plant is at Varahe Street in Gordon.
“This is for the vanilla extract market overseas,” Puritau explains. “What we’ve done is we’ve brought the overseas market into PNG. So, in this case, PNG can manufacture and produce vanilla extract for the world out there.
“The whole range of products are brought locally and manufactured and processed here in Gordon. So, if you see our Paradise Spices packet out there, you might at first think that it’s from overseas, but it’s made here in PNG.
“We export to New Zealand, Australia, USA, Taiwan, Japan, and other smaller areas as well. The market now is 80% export and 20% local retail. There’s a buyer in Australia who wants three tonnes of chilli a month. However, it’s unfortunate that we can’t meet this demand.”
Puritau says the bottled water was first produced in 2009 and is now sold to Tabubil and various shops and supermarkets around Port Moresby. “It’s only in its second year of production,” he says. “The water is purified and produced at our factory in Gordon. We currently sell only in 500ml bottles and will introduce a one-litre bottle as soon as the demand increases.”
Puritau is proud of what he is doing to help village people of PNG. However, he urges the government to step in by way of improved infrastructure. “What I’m doing is I’m helping the village people,” he says. “I have ‘Made in PNG’ on our packaging.
“I’d like to see better infrastructure. Our problem is lack of supply because of lack of logistics such as infrastructure: meaning, villagers live in innermost areas and can’t bring their produce to market. They produce heaps and heaps, enough for us to fill containers and supply the world, however, they can’t bring their produce to market. For example, seven out of 10 chilli farmers can’t bring their produce out to market because of bad roads, no access to vehicles, infrastructure.
“I’d also like to see export rebate and assistance from the government to our company.”