Nari: Little progress in agriculture since 1975

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Bang … need to do much more for agriculture development
NATIONAL Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) director-general Dr Sergie Bang says agriculture had progressed little since independence in 1975.
“Priority must be given to initiatives to propel the growth and development of Papua New Guinea’s agriculture industry which is the livelihood of the majority of the population,” he added.
“It is true that since independence (on Sept 16, 1975), we have not progressed much in agriculture development, both in terms of production and supply chain.
“The right steps have been taken, but we need to do much more now, than in the past. This is not just in production and marketing, but also research,” he said, adding that a good sector plan was urgently needed.
NARI founding director-general Valentine Kambori is leading an experts’ working group putting together the National Agriculture Sector Plan (NASP) 2019-2029.
“We had a National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP) which ended in 2017. A new agriculture strategic plan is being worked out now.
“We also need accountable leadership to implement the plan. A plan is just that if there is no efficient implementation.
“Coming out with a 10-year plan is fine but we also need a five-year or medium-term plan to forward some key national projects such as a national food marketing system.
“We have got to have projects that are delivered towards the government’s Medium Term Development Plan III, such as food security and an increase in income opportunities for our farmers, and also exports for our country.
“We must have a very strong board, from the private sector, from banks and donors, who are going to put money into this plan.
“Once the plan is implemented, it’s no longer only the government that’s going to fund it, but also donors who must have confidence in the plan.
“The board must ensure that the management committee managing the plan is competent and deliver efficiently. There must be financial accountability as well as technical project reports.
“I believe this is a key way forward to ensure results because now we just identify projects and we give out all the money upfront.
“It could be a K3 million project or a K5 million project, but the money is gone, even if the project is not delivered. This has been the problem with the NADP.
“We must not repeat such mistakes. The implementation and administrative weaknesses must be plugged,” he said.
Bang says all countries that have invested money into agriculture research – science, technology and innovation – have prospered.
“They have invested up to 10 per cent of their GDP in research: science, technology and innovation,” he says.
“Research helps to solve production issues, production problems, bring efficiency into production systems.
“Through research, you also come up with new opportunities.
“There are new things that can be brought into production and marketing.”
Bang said: “An example is the research into the galip nut in Papua New Guinea. Galip is an indigenous nut which is now commanding high demand in the world.
“We have demand for galip in Australia and Europe. Right now, our galip is selling at CPL (City Pharmacy Ltd) supermarkets in Port Moresby and Tropicana Supermarket in Kokopo.
“People want more galips. We believe galip will become a very big industry such as cocoa, if not bigger. That’s where we should capitalise on. When there’s an opportunity and potential, cash in on it.
“Our farmers can then capitalise on this crop.
“Now, in our lowlands, between three and four million people are going to benefit from the weekly galip sales.”
He said another example of research and opportunity was the okari nut.
“We can also promote and improve varieties of crops and livestock that are resistant to pests and diseases, and others. We must not lose sight of the funding that research needs.
“We can bring in strategic new products and varieties that may see a 100% to 200% increase in production, such as sweet potato.
“We’ve cultivated sweet potato varieties that are producing double what the original was yielding.
“Through such research you can venture into improving crop varieties and production,” he added.
Bang said NARI’s research today did not just focus on ensuring food security.
“We look for new and emerging market opportunities because marketing is key to alleviating farmers’ earnings. The markets can be expanded in New Zealand and Australia.
“We can sell coffee and cocoa. There are export opportunities to Australia for fresh produce such as kaukau (sweet potato), asparagus and spices.
“The opportunities are there for the agriculture sector. But we will have to innovate and improve our supply chain,” he added.

Worinu … agriculture supply chain in dire need of improvement
Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) general-manager Mark Worinu says the horticulture industry has transformed over the last 30 years but the supply and value chain is in dire need of improvement.
“Since independence in 1975 to the 1980s, it (farming) was purely about subsistence. Fruit and vegetable production then was pretty much just a strong domain for subsistence.
“There was little commercial focus. Over the last 30 years (since 1989), as far as the establishment of FPDA is concerned, things have transformed with the introduction of new crops into the industry.
“So much have changed since. People learned how to farm crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cabbages, capsicum, and others.
“Before that, it was just traditional and indigenous crops. We still maintain our traditional crops but varieties started to transform production from the 1980s.
“In Mt Hagen in the 1980s, I used to watch my mother sell indigenous greens and vegetables at the market.
“Farmers then started adopting a commercial mind-set, selling new varities of fruits and vegetables. Some of them successfully set up farms as a means to generate income. Many now are keen to go into commercial fruit and vegetable production.
“This is in line with the demands of a growing populace and major development projects,” he added.
Worinu said: “We now have no other choice to forward the agriculture sector and industry. The supply and value chain woes must be fully addressed.
“The supply consistency must be raised for market growth. That’s FPDA’s primary focus today.
“A robust production system has to be established for the farmers to ensure produce is coming out of the farms consistently and regularly. We are also working closely with stakeholders on the issue of transportation to get the produce to the markets efficiently and quickly.
“With government support in funding and implementation of effective growth programmes, there is no reason why we cannot transform our agriculture industry into a more rewarding nation-building sector,” he added.

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