Cocoa bean quality drops


THE Government’s agriculture price support programme is contributing to a drop in quality wet cocoa beans, according to the business community. East New Britain chamber of commerce and industry president David Stein said during a Business-Government dialogue this week, that the K200 million for the agriculture programme needed to be diverted to fixing roads, electricity or extension services. The subsidy increased the wet cocoa beans price from K1.50 to K3 per kilogramme. “A lot of growers were coming in to take advantage of the price, farmers were rushing in and supplying a lot of immature, poor beans and were taking advantage of the premium price, so the quality of cocoa for export has dropped,” he said. Stein said genuine, long-term exporters were missing out on the quality products that they would normally buy. He said while a significant amount (K200 million) had been put into agriculture support, a lot of it was misguided and put into subsidies. “PNG agriculture companies are actually paying more for wet beans than it could possibly recover from processed cocoa,” he said. “The subsidy is just a sugar hit, and it can’t last, it is not sustainable, the situation will revert back to where that subsidy is no longer available, farmers will have to go back to the original buyers that they used to sell to.”