By MALUM NALU
ECONOMIST Tiri Kuimbakul says an increasing number of Western Highlands farmers are abandoning their coffee gardens to grow fresh produce.
Kuimbakul, a former Coffee Industry Corporation economist, told The National in Mt Hagen that that was the observation he made in the smallholder sector in many parts of the province.
“The main reasons for this trend seem to be shortage of land as a result of population increase,” he said.
“Coffee prices are unstable.
“Coffee is a seasonal crop.
“It takes more effort to produce coffee and the financial returns per unit are higher for food crops than for coffee.”
Kumibakul said coffee and vegetables were what drove the economy of Western Highlands.
“This province has probably the most-ideal conditions for both coffee and food crops,” he said.
“My view is that the future of agriculture really is in food crops.
“Coffee is an export crop, whose prices fluctuate on a daily basis.
“It’s also a seasonal crop.
“It takes up a lot of land as well.
“With the population growth, land is becoming very short.
“With coffee prices being unstable and being a seasonal crop, I’m beginning to see that many farmers in the province are uprooting coffee in order to plant food crops.
“Food crop market is available.
“You can sell on the roadside, as well as in the market.
“There’s not much processing involved like coffee.
“For me, the future of coffee is in plantations and large holdings.
“Smallholder coffee in the province, in the long run I would say, will be done away with – I’m talking maybe 20 years from now.
“People are already beginning to see that there is more potential in food crops than in coffee.”
By MALUM NALU