Better roads can make coffee even better


PAPUA New Guinea coffee has been labelled balanced, good and natural in flavour and aroma, plus a lot of diversity which meet international consumers’ demand.
PNG is one of the 60 coffee-producing countries in the world.
There are about 64,000 hectares under coffee across 14 of PNG’s provinces, mostly managed by smallholders.
It is estimated that 2.5 million Papua New Guineans rely on coffee as their main source of income.
PNG produces about one million bags of green coffee beans annually compared to the annual world production figure of about 125 million bags.
We exported coffee to 29 countries in 2006, with the major coffee markets being Germany, the United States, Japan and Australia.
PNG’s slightly fruity beans attract a reasonable price, typically slightly below the price of Columbian coffee.
Two varieties are grown: robusta, in the coastal areas, and arabica, in the Highlands.
Coffee is mostly grown in Eastern and Western Highlands and Chimbu.
PNG has about 280,000 smallholder coffee growers, 660 larger cultivating areas of 1-30 hectares, 65 large plantations, 18 registered exporters, 51 registered processors and over 6000 roadside buyers.
These may look like a nice picture, but in reality things aren’t rosy up in the coffee-growing areas where the growers face serious problems with transportation. A visitor who deals with coffee at the international level and who knows that the beans from PNG are much sought-after, has been on our roads and said they are challenging. And that is probably putting it nicely.
We applaud the Fairtrade arrangement where Australia and New Zealand are planning to work with farmers in PNG over the next three years to develop quality beans for export, develop market links and increase partnerships.
Fairtrade is active in 29 Commonwealth countries and supports more than 1.6 million shareholder farmers and agricultural workers.
Some of the world’s largest consumer markets for Fairtrade are also Commonwealth nations, including the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Fairtrade, and other ethical trade initiatives, can help the Commonwealth address inequalities and unlock greater opportunities for developing countries to build sustainable economies.
Just one example of Fairtrade in action is found in PNG, where the Highlands Organic Agriculture Cooperative, or Hoac, has improved the lives of 60,000 people.
However, the biggest challenge is to access these farmers or the growers, so value is added to the produce they have.
One governor who has seen the hardships growers from his province face has outlined three reform objectives to undertake during his term. They are:
lBringing back the district government headquarters to their existence and functionality;
lProviding economic empowerment for our rural subsistence farms – bringing the markets closer by cutting high transport costs to markets in the city; and
lIntroducing village-based volunteer service system.
Central Governor Robert Agarobe wants agriculture to be the province’s priority under its five-year-development plan. And he should be commended for wanting to transition from subsistence to commercial farming.
That is the approach all parliamentarians should take, but before that, first make better roads.
Improving road conditions in rural areas can produce positive results in the country’s economy.

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