Industry faces serious threat, official warns

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday February 25th, 2014

 PAPUA New Guinea’s coffee industry, the lifeline for almost three million people in the country, is faced with several serious problems, Coffee Industry Corporation acting chief executive officer Anton Benjamin says.

The CIC is preparing to host Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to launch new initiatives on Friday to revitalise the industry 

Benjamin said urgent remedial action needed to be taken to save the industry.

These problems include ageing coffee trees in the smallholder and plantation sectors, high level of debt, breakdown in rural infrastructure, ageing coffee factories and equipment, increase in lawlessness, continual threat of quality problems, possible shortage of land and labour, threat of major pests and diseases such as coffee berry borer and variability in climate change.

Coffee exports over the past 10 years averaged 1 million bags with export earnings of K451 million.

In 2011, exports of 148,752  bags earned K962 million, in 2012 exports of 920,000 bags earned K478 million and in 2013, 810,928 bags earned K336 million –pointing to a serious decline in both export volume and earnings with production well below potential.

“The coffee industry supports almost three million people, either directly or indirectly,” Benjamin said,

“This is an industry that’s very significant. It contributes to overall government purse. It is important that both the industry and the government take initiatives to address problems in the industry.

“The concerns in the industry are the decline in production. The decline in production has come about because of many factors. Previously, we had quite a number of large plantations right throughout the coffee-growing provinces. That contributed up to 50% of our exports, until after independence, when the government brought in the plantation acquisition programme, giving them to landowners.