Agriculture, economy’s bedrock

Editorial

IT is time to invest in the land and to generate an income from the growth of market produce and cash crops.
More than 80 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s population live in the rural areas and practise subsistence agriculture.
In their gardens they grow a range of crops.
Past and current Agriculture and Livestock ministers have said over time that most Papua New Guineans depend on agriculture. To bail the country out of its financial and social problems, we need to make real investments in this sector.
Let’s get Government technical advisers and field extension officers to start working with farmers to improve crop selection and develop their farms. All provincial Governments must plan for the transition from subsistence to commercial farming.
This week Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Women Marise Payne mentioned that there is enormous potential for growth in PNG’s agricultural exports to Australia. And that the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government was supportive of Prime Minister James Marape’s ambition in this regard.
Enough talking – let’s get down to business.
Let’s implement aggressive measures and projects to tap the international demand and market for fresh produce.
Countries worldwide have high demands for organic food and PNG has the potential to tap into that.
Revenue from agriculture could cater for the increasing expenditure the Government had to take care of given the increasing population over the years.
However, in PNG the biggest challenge is how to access these farmers or growers so value can be added to the produce they have. The Government has announced its intention to support revive this important sector.
One option is to have district government officers travel to villages to buy the produce, transport them to warehouses for sorting and quality control before sending into towns and cities for sale.
The market must be brought back to the village for the local economy to be stimulated.
The government will be encouraged to commit funds to build roads, bridges, airports and wharves in the province.
Imagine what will happen if all provincial governments take that approach and work with the national government to see that roads, markets, financing and technical and professional assistance are improved.
Strengthening agriculture can produce positive effects in the country’s economy and investment in agricultural development can help reduce poverty as has been seen elsewhere in the world.
Agriculture has been at the centre of economic progress for many developing nations and there is a clear recognition of how strengthening agriculture and food systems has resulted in more affordable, healthier and diverse food options.
Agriculture took a backseat to the rise of the mining industry and the extraction of other valuable resources.
The government is now trying to support local agriculture because this is the only industry that can directly benefit the rural communities.
While gold and copper can be taken and a royalty paid to the state and the landowners, the harsh reality is that very few actually partake in the transaction.
There needs to be a standard shift back to the land as it was seen in pre-independence times, when agriculture was seen as the bedrock that the economy could be built on.

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