The National, Tuesday December 17th, 2013
By PIKAH KOHUN
IN Papua New Guinea major agro-industrial by-products in terms of quantities produced are mill run, palm kernel meal, copra meal, fish meal, rice bran, poultry offal meal and molasses.
The aggregate estimated economic worth of these products would be over K96.8 million per year (See table).
These are being used in the form as ingredients in formulated stock feed (mill run, copra mill, fish meal, etc), as supplementary livestock feed at commercial and smallholder farms (copra meal, mill run, molasses, palm kernel meal, fish meal etc) or are exported as primary products.
More recently an increased volume of fish meal is being used in the local feed mills to produce stock feed, though one company exports 70 per cent of its product to Australia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Most of the palm kernel meal and 80 per cent of the copra meal are exported for cattle and horse feed to Australia and New Zealand.
In light of the high and rising cost of commercial livestock rations, there is a strong economic imperative to maximising the use of these by-products as livestock feed to substitute expensive imported ingredients such as cereal grains and soybean meal.
In PNG, interest and concern to reduce livestock feed cost by making more effective use of local feeds and by-products goes back many years.
In 1982 and 1983, two national conferences were conducted to address how best crop by-products could be utilised, including their use as livestock feed.
Despite this and some good and promising research evidence available at that time, the issue has received little to no attention at the national or policy level.
There is now a broader range of agro-industrial by-products, including fish meal from canning companies.
The quantity of fish meal and palm kernel meal will increase with planned expansion in the oil palm and fish canning industries.
While most of the copra and palm kernel meal and some of the fish meal are exported as stock feed, mill run and rice bran are all absorbed within the feed milling industry.
The rising cost of imported livestock feed presents the opportunity to seriously consider making more effective use of the agro-industrial by-products to reduce feed cost.
The National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) has taken this opportunity and, with funding support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), has been leading research into the development of alternative feeding systems for livestock based on locally available feed resources, including agro-industrial by-products.
The NARI research has shown that more of the agro-industrial by-products can be used in combination with other feed sources to produce nutritionally balanced livestock feeds, and opportunities exist for industries which produce these by-products or other aspiring entrepreneurs to develop options for adding value to the by-products for use as major feed ingredients and produce lower cost livestock feed.
Agro-industrial by-products have been used extensively to feed livestock, but mainly as sole supplementary feeds or in combination with other such feed resources without due regard to making nutritionally balanced rations that can support efficient production and reproduction of livestock.
NARI research indicates these by-products can constitute a significant proportion of effective balanced diets of pigs, broiler chickens, layer chickens and even tilapia fish.
Furthermore, major cost savings can be made by using the correct combinations of these local feed resources.
One major issue to be considered is that the by-products are available only in certain locations or are exported.
Where they are available, current indications suggest that farmers are not using them effectively either because of cost if transportation is involved, or lack of knowledge of feed formulation.
Another important issue to consider when using these by-products is that there are known anti-nutritional factors that limit their use in combination with other feeds.
Some of them are perishable and need to be properly processed and stored to minimise losses due to rancidity.
Perception about these by-products needs to be changed as they are important and due consideration should be given to adding value to them.
NARI research is increasingly developing the technologies and knowledge and skills of farmers to use these by-products in the right combination with their local feed sources to produce a more balanced ration for their livestock.
NARI has recently initiated a research in collaboration with those companies that produce the main by-products with the view to explore opportunities for value addition, in particular, how agro-industrial by-products can be more effectively and efficiently utilised in sustainable livestock feeding systems to reduce feeding costs, add value to the by-products and benefit smallholder farmers.
Collaborative research and development with the relevant industry groups will lead to ways of processing and packaging the by-products so as to maintain their feeding and nutritional value and convert them into more balanced rations to supply local commercial livestock farms.
It is imperative that we should invest on value addition to these by-products and in the process create employment and wealth for Papua New Guineans.