THE agriculture sector contributes around 30 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s national gross domestic product (GDP). Coffee, cocoa, copra, palm oil, rubber and tea are PNG’s major exports in the sector, contributing K20 billion in export revenue from 2009 to 2018. There is potential for more, however, legacy issues at the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) must be fixed, according to the Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Simon. Business reporter PETER ESILA writes.
Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Simon during the announcement of DAL’s new acting secretary Dr Nelson Simbiken said there was too much infighting at the department for the top post that no one wanted to work together.
The minister said with the new acting secretary, the previous acting secretary Stephen Mombi reverts back to deputy secretary, he was acting secretary after the suspension of secretary Daniel Kombuk. Kombuk is still under suspension. The acting appointment is normally up to a period of three months.
Simon said Mombi’s term expired in January (2022). However, his term was not extended due to issues that were raised.
He said one of the directives to develop a price support and freight subsidy policy was not carried out due to infighting.
The minister said the reason why they continue to appoint acting secretaries was because the secretary’s position is still not vacant.
He said he had written letters to the Public Service Commission to speed up process on the appointment.
Simon challenged Simbiken to develop the price support and freight subsidy policies to drive the agriculture sector forward.
He said one of the agendas that the Government was running was the price support and freight support policy.
He said apart from other outstanding key performance indicators and policy matters, he asked Simbiken to ensure there was a policy paper on interventions that the government was running.
Under the price support programme, the government allocated K200 million (in 2020) to support different commodity boards.
DAL has also developed the freight subsidy programme with the shipping companies to assist farmers bring their produce to the market.
Simbiken said there was more work to be done policy wise.
He said DAL needed to catch up with so many of its policies, and on the bigger picture, there is a massive disconnect from the national level, down to the provinces, districts and LLGs (local level governments) for the agriculture sector.
Access to finance
Simbiken said he would discuss with department deputy secretaries to ensure that the commodity boards got funding to implement their programmes.
Simbiken said the Rubber Board, PNG Spice Industry and Livestock Development Corporation (LDC) got their funding through the department which was constraining their operations.
He said within the next 100 days, he would ensure stability is brought to the department and manage our funding.
Simbiken said there are outstanding work, like the sector plans currently being worked on. He said but most importantly, to set up a proper accountability, compliance and vetting process adding that at the moment, it is chaotic. He said some of the deputies are not in control of how finance are being used in the department.