Rice an important crop

Editorial

GROWN on every continent in the world except for Antarctica, rice is more than a staple.
It gives life to millions and is the basis for practically every meal in many countries.
Rice has become the most important thing on the table. Every dish goes with it, not the other way around.
According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), rice is a staple food for over half the world’s population.
About 90 per cent of worldwide rice production comes from Asia – an area IRRI defines as reaching from Pakistan in the west to Japan in the east.
For a very long time, rice has been a staple food item on our dinner tables.
It has always been viewed as an important crop and much talked about, its status debated by people from all walks of life. It is quite safe to say that rice is one food item that is much talked about and an important part of our daily diet.
A rice project was launched just outside Port Moresby, at Pacific Adventist University (PAU), last week under the Provincial and Industry Support Service Southern Region Directorate of Department of Agriculture in partnership with PAU, Agriculture Cooperative College with technical support from Government of Philippines.
After months of discussions, the project was launched on Friday.
About 30 hectares of land was cleared to grow rice. A partnership between the PNG and Philippines governments saw the deployment of 19 agricultural technical personnel to develop the farm and provide skills and knowledge to the surrounding villages.
The Philippines Government, a major rice investor in PNG, is ready to assist PNG produce rice for both local demands and export.
Concern over rice imports is a long-standing feature of food policy in PNG. Despite the failure of previous attempts at local rice production, policymakers are again setting ambitious targets for import replacement and are committing large budgets to rice projects.
Central Governor Robert Agarobe said the rice project was significant because of the supply of the highest quality and quantity of seeds capable of meeting our domestic needs.
He said the development of the rice industry in PNG should not end in the seed production stage but proceed into actual farming and skills transfer, packaging and marketing of the rice.
He said that would ensure the narrowing down of the gap of 240 tonnes of rice imported annually at a cost of K600 million.
It is true that Central covers National Capital District as the largest urban centre in PNG and its growing urban population of close to 1 million people is a huge market for local producers.
Agarobe said growing rice was not new to his people. Since early missionaries introduced rice to Mekeo, in Kairuku district, in the 1900s, people there have been growing red, purple and black rice ever since.
While PNG’s rice industry is still in its early stages, it has the potential to have as much impact as other celebrated crops.
Not only can the rice industry realise huge growth independently, it can also complement existing popular crops and ease the burden on communities.
According to a NRIs spotlight report last year, nearly 98 per cent of rice consumed in PNG is imported.
And as the country’s population increases, the rising consumer demand for rice will create huge potential for a lucrative rice business in the country.

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