By GYNNIE KERO
EAST Sepik will soon be supplying markets with eggs raised from a farm in the Sepik plains.
Branded ‘Sepik Fresh’, the products come from a K35 million modern high tech farm at Huaripmo in East Yangoru Local Level Government.
Next up will be chicken products, likely to hit the shelves next February.
The eggs and chicken from the farm are aimed at replacing all chicken and eggs that the two Sepik provinces are currently importing from Morobe. Thus, they will be a source of protein for families.
The Sepik Chicken Grain and Cocoa Innovation project, poultry component is one of the several to be developed in the Sepik Plains Economic Zone (SEZ).
The project is established on 9,500 hectares of State land and took nearly seven years to reach this stage.
The project is expected to create 400-500 permanent jobs for the local people as well as the province.
The SEZ stretches over six districts including parts of West Sepik.
This multi- million kina agro-business venture was launched by former prime minister Peter O’Neill in 2016 at Yangoru station.
It is a National Government project with six main objectives:
- Producing good quality chicken products at cheaper affordable prices;
- Improving the nutrition and well-being of people;
- An increase in cocoa production, downstream processing and better quality and prices for farmers;
- Providing income generating opportunities for rural communities;
- Creating long-term job opportunities for the local people; and
- Delivering improved livings standards for the people because of essential infrastructure developments that the project will bring, like better roads and electricity for the first time since Independence for the impact communities.
Partners in the project are Kumul Agriculture Ltd (40 per cent), landowners (5 per cent), East Sepik Provincial Government (2.5 per cent), Yangoru-Saussia DDA (2.5 per cent) and Innovative Agro Industries (50 per cent).
According to local MP Richard Maru, the eggs will be out in a week’s time.
For broiler chickens, he said they would be outsourced to locals to raise and sold back to the project to be bought at K3 per chicken.
The chickens will be sold live, processed and frozen to meet the needs of all types of consumers.
The chicken and eggs will be an affordable source of protein for everyone as the project will produce its own stock feed.
Maru notes that current chicken prices are high because we import the feed from overseas and 50 per cent of the cost is for feed.
This means up to 50 per cent of what we pay for chicken goes overseas.
“Our project will stop this vicious cycle of importing feed and stop the transfer of Papua New Guinea’s wealth overseas,” Maru says.
“To be economically independent, we must produce our own food and replace reliance on imports and keep our money in the country.
“There’s no reason why we should continue to import stock feed.
“Corn and sorghum are native to many regions of PNG, including the Sepik.
“We will commercially grow these crops and process them into stock feed. This is crucial for the industry as it will ensure self-sufficiency and economic competitiveness,” Maru adds.
Access to good nutritious food is the cornerstone for a healthy, happy, smart and productive society.
The problem of malnutrition and under-nutrition continues to be a significant impediment in the health, social and sustainable economic development of PNG.
A 2015-2016 research by Save the Children and Frontier Economics has referred to malnutrition as an ‘epidemic’, a ‘silent emergency’, ‘alarming’ and a ‘nutritional crisis’.
PNG has some of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world and the fourth highest stunting rate for children in the world.
Child under-nutrition has cost the PNG economy up to US$1.5 billion (K5.2 billion) in a single year, representing 8.45 per cent of PNG’s gross domestic product.
Chicken and eggs are priority because of the statistics in PNG of this plague of under-nutrition that is impacting our next generation.
Maru says “I have a duty to ensure that malnutrition does not rob my people and their children’s future. The Sepik Chicken, Grain and Cocoa Innovation Project is a deliberate intervention to create jobs and incomes, and nutritional food to improve the nutritional status of our people.”
Projected high cocoa yield
It is understood the project will also trial 10 hectares of cocoa using drip feed technology, through which the district expects to increase cocoa yield by 300 per cent.
Cocoa seedlings will be supplied by the regional cocoa nursery which is also at Huaripmo.
Recently, the district signed a deal with Kumul Agriculture, a subsidiary of KCH and IAI to develop a cocoa buying and processing business.
The business arm called Ninere Agro Industries Limited is worth K1.5 million.
Ninere in the local dialect means ‘our’ and Maru urges everyone to purchase at least a share in the company for K1,000.
“A company needs to have the financial strength,” he says.
Following this deal, the project will take cocoa grown in the district and province and add value to it through the drying process, to get better prices and to improve cocoa quality.
There are quality issues due to smoke in cocoa beans when wood fire is used in drying cocoa.
These drying methods are not compatible with modern industry standards.
Introducing new drying technology will be a win-win for the farmers and everyone as well as improving the reputation for cocoa coming out of the Sepik region.
The improved quality will lead to downstream processing and eventually the setup of a chocolate factory in the district.
The goal is to motivate the farmers through good prices to become better, persistent and consistent farmers for sustainability.
Thus, margin and better price for farmers matters.
Price is king!