By MALUM NALU
AGRICULTURE is the biggest winner in the 2018 Budget delivered by Treasurer Charles Abel last November, however, the challenge is to make it happen now for the people of this country.
The sector has seen the biggest increase from K385.7 million in the 2017 supplementary budget to K665.9 million or a 72 per cent increase.
Much of the increase is captured in the capital component, with an increase of over 140 per cent.
This includes support for the Productive Partnership in Agriculture Programme, national cattle breeding farm, freight subsidy for cocoa and coffee, strategic defence against coffee berry borer and the regional nurseries project.
Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) will also receive increased funding this year to help farmers throughout the country.
FPDA general manager Mark Worinu says that while its recurrent budget remains the same at about K4 million , the public investment programme (PIP) budget has increased from K5 million to K11 million.
“On top of that, we’re also getting support from international development partners like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Project with K4.6 million and New Zealand with K4.7 million,” he says.
“That adds up to K25.26 million.
“That is a mega-budget for us, with funding from development partners made available for FPDA to use for service delivery, plus support from the PNG Government through the Department of National Planning and Monitoring.”
Worinu says the increased funding shows that the Government realises the importance of key programmes FPDA had been passionately promoting over the years.
“The Government is now supporting FPDA in a big way,” he says.
“We have never had this kind of benefit for a long time, so we’re very happy with the Government’s support.
“The Government must continue to maintain this kind of budget level into the future.
“Continue this for the next 10 years and you will see changes.
“I think the Government has now taken the right step and this must be maintained.”
Worinu says it is important that all agriculture agencies must be accountable and transparent in the spending of public funds.
“FPDA is one of those organisations that benefits from a very good board,” he says.
“I think the board and management relationship has been very good.
“This is the reason we see a lot of good things happening within FPDA.”
Worinu says FPDA would build its capacity with the increased funding support through increased extension, training and technical advisory services.
“We want to see farming be taken as a business,” he says.
“We want to establish more model farms.
“We want to link farmers to the market.
“We want to develop good value chains from production to post-harvest to marketing.
“Those are the key things that FPDA has been passionately promoting, and we would like to ramp it up and take it to the next level.”
Worinu, speaking at the launching of FPDA’s 2016 annual report last month , says it performed “exceptionally well” in 2016 and exceeded 2015.
He says in the report that the overall aggregated volumes of produce grown and supplied by village extension workers and their contact farmers along the value chain in 2016, exceeded the volumes and values in 2015 by more than 60 per cent.
“A total of 3901 farmers and value chain players were contacted and trained,” he says.
“An estimated volume of 13,037 tonnes of assorted fresh produce were produced and supplied to informal and formal markets, returning approximately K38.84 million to farmers.
“The volume of certified seed potatoes produced this year was 75 tonnes which was the highest ever over the last four years.
“Value chain and marketing results are outstanding.
“This year records the highest volumes and values of fresh produce sold through the domestic value chains, reaching in excess of 5321 tonnes worth more than K8 million,
“Most of this money goes into the pockets of our farmers and middle traders.
“Moreover, imported volumes of fresh produce by major supermarkets in Port Moresby have dramatically declined.
“In contrast, most have increased their purchase of local products, thus injecting much-needed cash into the rural economy during these tough economic times.
“A remarkable scenario that unfolds this year is the reduction of post-harvest losses from a high of 35 per cent in 2014 and 2015 to an average of 12.8 per cent.”
Worinu says the bulb onion programme has produced a record volume of 1544 tonnes valued at more than K3.7 million farm gate price.
This has been since FPDA adopted the crop as one of its focuses in 2005.
“These achievements have set the platform for FPDA to make further progress,” Worinu says.
“We will continue to increase focus on three crops of potato, onion and sweet potato in the coming years through effective and efficient value chains.
“We will also increase focus on research and development to sustain productivity at high levels.
“(This is) under emerging challenges of reduced land areas under production, low soil fertility status, complex customer preferences and arising opportunities from increasing demand for onion, potato chips and quality sweet potato by the growing middle class in PNG.”
One of FPDA’s successful projects is its elite seed potato programme, which recorded its highest value in terms of volume and value in 2016, according the annual report.
The report says 45 certified seed potato growers made K1.144 million from sale of 303 tonnes of certified seeds to over 600 commercial potato growers in the Highlands.
“FPDA produced 75 tonnes of elite seeds with a market value of K262,500,” the report says.
“Increased partnership arrangements to produce elite and certified seed potatoes had been forged between FPDA and Eastern Highlands, Southern Highlands and Enga provinces and Goilala district.
“FPDA received four batches of plantlets from National Agriculture Research Institute with 44,300 individual plantlets: A shortfall of more than 100,000 tissue culture plantlets from the planned number of 144,000 plantlets.”
The report says the increasing trend is a remarkable turnaround from 2012 and its lowest ebb in 2014.
“The turnaround in production output and value is due to two strategic management decisions in late 2014 and 2015,” it says.
“The first was the initiation of the outgrower production scheme due to bacterial wilt (BW) disease contamination of land in Tambul (Western Highlands) seed multiplication centre.
“The second was the separation of the elite seed inspection and certification from elite seed production towards end of 2015, keeping the two functions separate and independent from each other.
“There is, however, more scope for further improvement in elite seed production volumes and values once new restructure is approved and implemented.”
The report says the key contributing factor in the increasing trend of elite seed potato production was the implementation of the outgrower scheme for production of elite seeds.
“An example of an outgrower elite seed production set-up is the Yapai-Samu project in Laiagam district of Enga,” it says.
“The project was launched in Oct 2016 and was officiated by the (then) minister for Agriculture and Livestock (Tommy Tomscoll) and the Governor of Enga Sir Peter Ipatas.
“There are other outgrowers located elsewhere in potato-growing provinces in the Highlands.
“These are Kirene in Imbonggu, Southern Highlands; Jiwaka; and Megabo in Unggai-Bena, Eastern Highlands. The Eastern Highlands government supports elite seed potato production in Megabo under the Eastern Highlands government seed potato scheme.”
By MALUM NALU