Factory to unlock Sepik coffee potential

Weekender

By LEO WAFIWA
THE key to unlocking the potential of any crop is the availability of reliable road and market access facilities.
This is the rationale to relocate the coffee factory from Wewak to Maprik in East Sepik.
According to Coffee Industry Corporation Ltd, the current annual return or income from coffee in Sepik Central alone is estimated at half a million kina. The factory together with rehabilitation of existing gardens will significantly improve these figures.
The main beneficiaries will be the rural growers of Maprik, Drekikir, Nuku, Yangoru, Angoram and Wosera-Gawi. They will have the opportunity to take part in integrated farming with cocoa, vanilla and other agriculture activities to avoid dependence on a single cash crop.
A ground breaking ceremony took place at the factory site located at Banialla, Ami Junction, in the Abiges-Mamblep LLG, Maprik District on Thursday June 28.
Officiating at the ceremony was East Sepik Provincial Administrator Dr Clement Malau, General Manager (Industry Operations) of Coffee Industry Corporation Ltd (CIC) Steven Tumae and PPAP Manager Potaisa Hombunaka.
The occasion was witnessed by Deputy Governor and Provincial Minister for Agriculture Ian Samuel, CEO of Maprik DDA Joshua Himina, ICC chairman Ian Mopafi and members of his committee representing Department of Agriculture and Livestock DAL offices in 10 provinces.Also present were representatives from the national DAL, University of Goroka and civil societies.
Other dignitaries include Professor Misty Baloiloi, Dr Keith Galgal, Dr Bill Bakau, CIC general manager (Research and Growers Division) Dr Mark Kenny and East Sepik PNG Smallholder Coffee Growers Association representative Thomas Ainero.
“It is no use telling growers to rehabilitate their gardens when there is no easy market avenue for them to sell. This is why the lead partner was advised to relocate his factory from Wewak to Maprik to serve the bulk of growers in the hinterlands of East Sepik,” Hombunaka said in an earlier launching at Warangom Village.
Currently growers pay a high transport cost of K25 to K30 per bag to take their coffee to Wewak.
The many agents the growers go through to process and sell their coffee is another nightmare.
What happens is the chairmen of cooperatives notify CIC Maprik office when they have sufficient parchment bags. CIC helps to transport their coffees to a marketing agent in Wewak, Sepik Coffee Ltd. The firm helps farmers to market green bean coffee at K5.30 per kg.
Sepik Coffee arranges processing of parchment to green bean with Pacific Agro Ltd, the only processing mill in Wewak. Sepik Coffee Ltd then transports the bags to Kundu Coffee Ltd in Lae to export.
The three players along the value chain collect their fees and the balance is held by CIC to notify respective cooperative chairmen to organise deposits into growers’ bank accounts.
These are some contributing factors to the decline of coffee in East Sepik. Hence, a factory in Maprik was an initiative of Anton Areka of agribusiness firm Weni and Mandol Investment Ltd, a lead partner of CIC’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP).
The lead partner is rehabilitating existing coffee gardens with 839 growers in Sepik Central covering 419 square kilometres.
The coffee rehabilitation effort is a PNG Government (Department of Agriculture and Livestock) initiative supported by World Bank and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) through loan financing. CIC is implementing the project through PPAP project management unit.
The dry processing mill will service all growers inclusive of those under the partnership in four districts namely Maprik, Yangoru-Saussia, Wosera-Gawi and Ambunti-Drekikir. Growers from Nuku and Lumi Districts of West Sepik will also benefit from this facility which will come with a storage shed.
“All materials have been welded and ready for erecting once the project site is formulated,” said Herman Sahake, project coordinator for Weni and
Mandol Ltd.
Earlier officials gathered at Warangom Village for the launching of 15,000-plus Omuru 1 hybrid Robusta coffee cuttings and distribution of 120 hand pulpers. The coffee cuttings include those from a second nursery set up at Baiyanga Village by Wandau Coffee Cooperative growers.
The cuttings are from Omuru 1 hybrid with superior characteristics of yield and coffee quality.
The deputy governor in his speech at Warangom, praised the CIC-PPAP partnership modality and said the revival of coffee would contribute to the provincial plan to transform East Sepik in terms of internal revenue generation and economic growth.
“We’re looking at transforming East Sepik to become self-reliant through internal financing (and) this is a good initiative.”
Coffee and all other agriculture initiatives will take place on land and this is where the provincial government is mobilising land, Provincial Administrator Dr Malau says.
“Land mobilisation and agriculture are the focus of this provincial government and administration and this is the reason for the formulation of the provincial plan in Maprik this week.
“We’re happy that it happened at this time for us to witness and support such an initiative which is in line with our provincial plan to take the province forward.”
The CEO of Maprik Joshua Himina explained the focus of the district to empower family units in agriculture activities.
“The foundation of every country begins with a family and this is where we will begin.
“Our thinking is in line with the
CIC-PPAP coffee rehabilitation initiative which involves households and family units.”
The coffee rehabilitation effort covers 38 cooperatives or grower groups.
The chairman of CIC-PPAP Industry Coordination Committee (board) Ian Mopafi emphasised the governance and accountability practices employed by the project. He therefore urged the lead partner to follow due process in the use of funds intended to service the little people in rural areas.
“You may have read in the newspaper this week of a lead partner in Goroka misusing some money meant to help little growers and being convicted of fraud.
“We come here because we believe in you. Look after coffee and we will work together,” Mopafi said.
According to data provided by Weni and Mandol with the help of CIC Maprik office, growers in Sepik Central have participated in 28 sales between 2006 and 2017. In the 11-year period they produced 15,600 green bean bags. These bags brought in K4.8 million in foreign exchange. Net income to growers alone was K3.1m. The balance of K1.7m was paid to marketing, processing and export firms.
The annual return or income for coffee for Sepik Central alone is estimated at half a million kina. It is anticipated that relocation of the factory and rehabilitation of coffee gardens will improve coffee income considerably.
The CIC-PPAP manager therefore called on the provincial administration plus the four DDAs including Nuku (West Sepik) to invest some agriculture development funds with Weni and Mandol towards construction of the factory and setting up of more hybrid Robusta coffee nurseries and providing equipment such coffee pulpers and tools.
The mill will unlock the potential of Robusta coffee as another source of income alongside vanilla, cocoa and other agri-products for the provincial government.
Meanwhile the CIC-PPAP Industry Coordination Committee held its first meeting in Wewak on Wednesday, June 27. The deputy governor also participated in the meeting.
Upon arrival on Tuesday, June 26 ICC members and project management unit staff had a briefing with Malau at his office at Kreer Heights.
Malau said the province welcomed the coffee intervention project and looked forward to closer working relationships to grow the economic base of the province.

  • The author is the information communication officer with the CIC-PPAP

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