Bad roads major drawback

National

Reports by MALUM NALU
POOR road infrastructure and marketing are major obstacles to the development of agriculture in Western Highlands, economist Tiri Kuimbakul says.
He told The National in Mt Hagen on Tuesday that most arable land where food crops could be grown was in areas that were inaccessible.
“Western Highlands has the best road network in the country, but the road conditions are not good for farmers to take their crops out,” Kuimbakul said.
“Most of these farmers in rural areas only grow as much as they need for themselves because there’s no need to produce extra when they can’t sell.
“I’ve seen a lot of farmers gambling and attending to other issues and not taking farming seriously, because there’s no way that they can take their crops to the markets.”
Kuimbakul said he was not referring to sealed roads but roads that were regularly maintained.
He also said Western Highlands needed to organise itself to market its produce.
“It should be organised so that farmers should not be wasting their time taking their crops to markets outside of the province,” he said.
“That should be left to the specialists who have the finance and logistics in place and the capacity to bear the risks involved.
“Farmers lack these skills, but because of the absence of proper marketing systems, farmers take it upon themselves to take their crops to outside provinces such as Madang and Lae, Moresby and even the New Guinea Islands.
“They face a lot of risks and were financially affected.”
Kuimbakul said he had interviewed many farmers, who told him that they had not been making money from crops, and so were not committed to growing.
“It’s not that there is no money in crops – it’s just that they spend more time and money trying to take their produce to the market, and spend a lot of money they cannot recoup.”
Despite these, Western Highlands could become PNG’s “food basket”.

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