By JEFFREY ELAPA
The signing of a memorandum-of-agreement (MoA) between Papua New Guinea and Philippines on Nov 16 will herald the beginning of rice commercialisation in PNG, both countries say.
Agriculture and Livestock Minister Benny Allan and Philippines Ambassador Bien V Tejano asserted this during a visit to the Pacific Adventist University rice model farm outside Port Moresby yesterday, which will have its first harvest next month.
The signing will be done between agriculture ministers of the two countries while Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will witness at the PAU farm.
Duterte will be in PNG for the Apec leaders’ summit at that time.
Initial discussions were made by the leaders of the two countries during Apec 2017 in Vietnam, and a State visit by O’Neill to the Philippines this year.
After the initial discussion, 19 technical officers from department of agriculture of Philippines started an initial rice modelling research station at PAU, which will become a seed bank centre for rice in the region and the country.
Allan said four different types of rice varieties would be trialled at PAU and distributed throughout Central and PNG.
He said the centre would also be used to train rice farmers.
Allan said there were already investors from the Philippines ready to invest in rice farming in the country, with the agreement opening up the floodgates.
“This is a good project to set the tone for rice growing in PNG on a bigger economic scale to meet the local demand and even to export and supply the Philippines population of 150 million people,” he said.
“The MoA of Nov 16 will set that course for rice production, seen as a food security issue for this country.”
Tejano said the water, climate and soil was conducive for paddy rice farming in the country.
He said the project would expand throughout Central and the Southern Region.
Tejano said PNG imported 400 tonnes of rice annually at a cost of K500 million while the Philippines need eight million tonnes of rice to feed 150 million people.
He said most of that rice was imported from Thailand and Vietnam but that could change with PNG coming into the picture.
Tejano said the project could feed the people of PNG within three years as it only needed 18,000ha, with more land available.
He said rice production would reduce the price of rice, retain foreign currency, bring in more revenue, address food security and provide job employment opportunities.
By JEFFREY ELAPA