The National, Wednesday July 3rd, 2013
PAPUA New Guinea needs to be serious in addressing current
challenges to the development of agriculture, deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion says.
“Most of our export tree crops are price takers in international market which means we cannot influence prices of these commodities in our favor,” he said.
The cost of imported inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides and machineries have been high, making many industries unprofitable at present prices.
“The smallholder productivity of these crops has been low and stagnated over the years … on the other hand, we are exposed to a variety of pests.”
Dion said cocoa pod borer had caused devastating impact in all cocoa producing provinces.
“Coffee berry borer and an aggressive strain of banana wilt (fungus) are not yet in PNG but they are across the border and can be in PNG any time,” he said.
The country’s coconut industry is affected because of a new disease called Bogia Coconut Syndrome caused by a pathogen (Phytoplasma).
“In light of these challenges, we must also look at the opportunities presented to us by international markets,” Dion said.
He said in 2008, all over the world food prices soared and a food crisis occurred with more than one billion people poor, malnourished and hungry, needing food.
“We in PNG have the potential to help and take advantage of these international developments by producing and exporting food and other commodities to those needy nations.”
“PNG needs to be innovative in developing new commodities and commercializing the existing commodities.”
“Indigenous nuts such as galip nut, okari nut, Karuka (Pandanus), have unique advantages to develop for export.”
He said these commodities were only grown in PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Dion said the government needed to fund one of the National Agricultural Research Institute’s high priority projects – commercialisation of galip nut.