Call for greater vegetables production

Nari, Normal

The National, Tuesday March 4th, 2014


PER capita vegetable production in Asia and the Pacific has increased some 25 per cent over the past decade, according to reports released by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). 

While Asian countries produce more than three-quarters of the world’s vegetables, FAO has warned that producers worldwide will need to dramatically increase their vegetable production by 47 per cent to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population which would exceed nine billion by 2050.

According to a UN report, with 2009 as the baseline, the population of ‘middle income’ earners in Asia and the Pacific is expected to triple by 2020, with a six-fold increase by 2030.

“These changes would push consumer demand for safe and healthy products,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.

“Therefore there is a need for rapid development in this sector as it has a high potential to grow further. This is one of the areas where serious attention is warranted.”

Despite the present and predicted future increase in demand, many people are not eating enough vegetables. 

Roughly one third of the world’s population suffers from micronutrient deficiency. 

The majority of them are in developing countries and nearly two thirds of them live in Asia.

Micronutrients include vitamins and dietary minerals such as zinc and iodine, and they are necessary for the healthy functioning of all body systems, from bone growth to brain function. If micronutrient deficiencies occur during childhood it affects a child’s physical and mental growth. 

“Vegetables are the key supply source of micronutrients to our body, and hence they play such an important role in our daily diet as well as the bone and brain growth of children, with whom we have to depend on our future growth, prosperity and the survival of our planet,” Konuma said.

Improving vegetable production and efforts to achieving food security in general is a significant and growing challenge in the developing world. 

Papua New Guinea is no exception. There are many factors that are limiting our efforts to improving food security.  

While we grow many types of introduced and traditional vegetables, most of what is produced is for household consumption and for local markets. But current production along with quality is low.  It is true that our people are not eating enough of different types of vegetables.

We need to take heed of the FAO warning and make efforts to improve vegetable production. PNG certainly has the potential and unexplored rich and unique genetic diversity that could greatly contribute to the production of vegetables and other food crops. 

But for us to improve production of vegetables and other food crops, we need to seriously invest in the agriculture sector. 

Our agriculture sector has great potential to contribute to food security through improved production of crops and natural resources supported by enabling environment created through improved infrastructure, facilities, and policies.  

Investment in research, to develop improved technologies and innovations is essential. 

There is a need to explore value adding and preservation options for food crops, especially vegetables which are perishable. 

Food prices, both processed and local fresh produce will continue to increase. Low income urban dwellers will be most affected. 

Much of the fresh food production occurs in rural areas and must be transported into urban markets. 

While the transportation issue is a major concern, an equally serious concern is the lack of appropriate storage facilities, greatly affecting quality and reduced shelf life.  

Law and order problems affect the production of food and pose threat to the supply of food.  

Women are major suppliers of food to local markets but may not participate freely because of law and order problems. 

This greatly limits their access to income as well as food security. Lack of attention paid to wo­men as farmers, producers and consumers is a concern.  

The middle class in PNG is growing and the demand for vegetables and other food will increase. 

Our food production efforts will be greatly impacted by the changing climate and the many other issues confronting us.

The threats to food security and challenges are many. We need to consider the FAO warning seriously. And to do so, we need to transform the agriculture sector in PNG. This is our way forward in addressing food security.