Papua New Guinea’s agriculture sector needs to be transformed into a much more rewarding industry for nation-building.
That can only be realised with a radical improvement in the supply and marketing chain. The National’s senior writer
MALUM NALU talks to the people who are driving towards this transformation.
Kambori … time to face reality in plans for agriculture sector
VALENTINE Kambori says the agriculture sector has not developed in Papua New Guinea because the country has been “too generic” and lacks focus.
Having served as director-general of National Agriculture Research Institute for six years (1996-2002) and national planning secretary, also for six years (2002-2008), he is now team leader of the experts’ working group putting together the National Agriculture Sector Plan (NASP) 2019-2029.
The group is made up of eminent thinkers and public policy writers in former agriculture and livestock secretary Mathew Kanua, public policy expert Ilivitale Saneto, veterinarian Dr Nime Kapo, agriculture economist Dr Eric Omuru and Kambori.
“We have to consider the reality of issues, constraints and impediments the sector is facing, and the socio-cultural dimensions when making decisions.
“Much have changed over the decades with many systems in derelict. These are systems during the colonial days.
“We have not really taken a stock stake, a real stock take, instead of picking up generic figures from some international reports, some NSO (National Statistical Office) reports, or central bank reports.
“We have been too generalised,” Kambori said.
“We are writing plans and frameworks on a very general modality. This is why this new agriculture sector plan we are working on, for the next 10 years, is more descriptive and prescriptive according to ground reality.
“In other words, we are taking a real reality stocktake.”
Kambori said from his experience in policy development planning, national strategic thinking and defining the future, “we have come a long way in terms of present realities”.
“My reflection is that having learnt so much from the hard knocks, most of our thinking and planning now should not be just academic exercises. We have a national culture of failing to collate data and information so that we are always up to date. All the systems and structures are now in place for us to do that. We are a country of creating so many legislations and writing policies, but somehow we don’t get into the implementation drive, passion and ambition,” he added.
Kambori said the NASP 2019-2029 would be completed by the end of this month.
The experts’ working group group held workshops in Madang (Momase), Mt Hagen (Highlands) and Kokopo (Islands) before the final one at 17-Mile in Central (Southern) last month.
“We want to have a draft ready by end of May. We have yet to conduct institutional consultations, donor consultations and peer review, before going to the government for approval,” he said, adding that the draft is expected to be presented at the National Agriculture Summit in Lae next month.
Omuru … 10 commodity boards underperforming
Agriculture economist Dr Eric Omuru says agriculture in the country has “regressed” with the 10 commodity boards not performing effectively. However, Omoru said he was optimistic of a better future for agriculture despite all the knocks from critics.
The boards are:
- OIL Palm Industry Corporation;
- COCOA Board of PNG (CBPNG);
- COFFEE Industry Corporation (CIC);
- FRESH Produce Development Agency;
- NATIONAL Agriculture Research Institute;
- NATIONAL Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority;
KOKONAS Indastri Koporesen (KIK);
- LIVESTOCK Development Corporation;
- RUBBER Board of PNG; and
- SPICE Board of PNG.
“There hasn’t been any improvement in all of our commodities, except for oil palm and recently the vanilla boom in the East Sepik province and a few other places.
“So really, we have regressed, in terms of agriculture development in the country as far as the commodity boards are concerned. What has really happened?” Omuru asked. I understand the government has been putting money in (to the boards), but when I assess the performance of each of the commodity boards, most of our production figures have actually gone backwards from the baseline from where they used to be.”
Omuru, a member of the experts’ working group putting together the NASP, said the plan was drawing on a wider sector.
“The expressions of our people, things that they have shared with us from the provinces, have been very informative. The collective wisdom in each of these consultations has been immense.
“What we are doing now is a diagnostics of the sector. Where we have been, where we have come and identifying the constraints that are affecting the sector.
“I hope that through this process, we will be able to deliver to Papua New Guinea something that is different. It’s not ‘business as usual’, unlike the past when we depended on commodity boards to draft the way forward,” he added.
Omoru said his recent work with the CIC, CBPNG and KIK aligned them with the government’s Medium Term Development Plan III (MTDP III) 2018-2022.
“MTDP II provides the National Government’s line of thinking. As commodity boards and sector agencies align to that, it adds a lot to what the government wants in the provinces. Bringing the commodity boards to work with the provinces, in achieving what we want in agriculture, would be crucial.
In the past, working together has been quite challenging,” he said. This makes Omuru, a former chief executive officer of the former Cocoa and Coconut Research Institute, confident of a brighter future for agriculture in the country.
“Sometimes I think the criticisms are acceptable, but others are not fair to the sector,” he said.
“I still maintain that some of the most hardworking people in the country are the didimans (male agriculture officers) and didimeris (female agriculture officers) out there in the sector.
“They work tough under very minimal funding. For me, the days when we achieved independence were different, as we were emerging from colonial rule and facilities and other matters were quite new.
“Along the way, our priorities shifted, and then came the mineral boom in our country. Our facilities have deteriorated in many places.
“Our commodity boards have undergone tough and trying times. Look at the CIC that I visited a couple of weeks ago. It was sad to walk into the CIC Building.
“In the 90s, I went there for the first time and going back in 2019, it saddens me to see the rundown state of the facilities. You go to other commodity boards, it is the same story,” he added.
Omuru is confident that with a change in leadership within the sector, and NASP, “the sky is the limit for the agriculture sector in this country”.
“I am very optimistic despite all the negativity that people have thrown at us,” he added.