Nari: Depots for fresh produce the answer to farmers’ woes

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Bang … depots needed to efficiently market fresh produce
IF National Agriculture Research Institute (Nari) director-general Dr Sergie Bang, pictured, has his way, trucks full of Highlands’ fresh produce will travel down the Highlands Highway to Lae and return with produce from the coast.
“Nari, Fresh Produce Development Agency and other stakeholders have discussed this for quite some time. Fresh produce marketing should not be just one way from the Highlands down to the coast, but should be both ways,” he said.
“Highlands’ farmers should be selling their produce to wholesalers in Wabag, Mendi, Mt Hagen, Kundiawa, Kurumul in Jiwaka, Goroka and Kainantu. They will then transport the produce to the big depot in Lae.
“There should also be depots in Rabaul, Manus, Popondetta and Alotau. In Port Moresby, there will be a big consolidation depot.
“The chiller containers go through Lae, the Papuan coast to Port Moresby.
“When they return (to Lae), they can stop in Alotau and Popondetta, and pick up lowland produce, such as fish, coconuts and mangoes, for the Highlands.
“We want such marketing activities to be enhanced and help raise the earnings of farmers when they make their weekly rounds to sell at the depots.”
Bang said the governments and donors must support key transport infrastructure projects to be in place for the agriculture sector.
“There should be funding for depots from wholesalers and chiller container transporters,” he said.
“This marketing-infrastructure link must be in place because it is the only way to deliver fresh produce efficiently to markets and consumers.
“Slowly, but surely, this is shaping up for the future of our farmers and the agriculture sector.
“With food security, farmers will reap better income.”
Ben Iseho, from Kuka village in the Asaro Valley of Eastern Highlands, agrees that there is an urgent need to improve the supply value chain and road infrastructure for farmers in the Highlands.
“I regularly transport kaukau (sweet potato) and carrot harvests to as far as Port Moresby, via the Highlands Highway to Lae. It is an expensive task,” he said.
“To transport a bag of kaukau to the main Asaro station costs K5 per bag. From Asaro, the bags are loaded onto trucks to Lae for shipping to Port Moresby, at a cost of K10 per bag.
“Young men are paid between K2 and K5 to carry a bag. Shipping to Port Moresby costs K30 a bag.
“After paying middlemen, carriers and transport costs, we only make a minimal profit of K5 to K10 per bag. This is very little for such laborious work.”
Iseho wants the government to provide assistance by way of refrigerated containers to help them take their produce to Lae.
“From the garden, we want it to go directly to Port Moresby. There is so much time and money wasted on transport to Lae. The containers must be nearby so that we can load our produce as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that the bad roads made the transport that much more difficult.
“Kaukau is a labour-intensive business with very low returns. If we can make a profit of at least K100 a bag, it would be worth all the effort. I, therefore, rotate my kaukau cultivation with carrots which are more profitable.”

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