THE lack of funding and the slow pace of intervention from the government to address the spread of the coffee berry borer pest in Jiwaka, Chimbu and Eastern Highlands are hurting the economy and putting at risk the welfare of millions of farmers and their families.
Over the years, coffee has become a symbol of wealth, especially in Papua New Guinea’s highlands; it helps prop up the economy with nearly K1 billion in foreign earnings and supports the livelihood of nearly half the country’s population.
Coffee also provides positive spill-overs to auxiliary industries like wholesale and retail, transport, manufacturing, hotel and professional and through these it adds value and growth to the economy.
The coffee industry already has a categorised export market that helps stabilise the exchange rate against external shocks and creates an international reputation which, in my opinion, is providing the access and flexibility for Papua New Guinea to capitalise on in the long term.
Honestly, the coffee industry can sustain and transform the economy in the long term just like coffee does in Brazil, but in this country it needs proper support backed up by a strong political will.
Understandably, we expect nothing right now as the general election and the formation of the new government take up our national attention.
But we have to remember that while we wait and watch the political stage, the coffee borer is spreading and eating up life in the highlands, and eventually it will impact on our national economy.
If this happens then GDP growth in PNG will either stagnate at 2.5 percent or worse off, drop towards zero as output for the coffee industry crashes and the market for auxiliary businesses goes down with it.
The coffee industry needs emergency intervention now to arrest the spread of the pest. Do nothing then we stand to lose so much in what can be so short a time.