The National, Tuesday July 16th, 2013
By JAMES LARAKI
PAPUA New Guinea needs to focus more on research and development work in high-potential and impact areas, Treasury Minister Don Polye says.
Polye acknowledged ongoing research efforts by the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), but said development efforts on indigenous crops and other areas of high potential must be given priority.
Speaking as the Acting Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Minister at last month’s Agricultural Innovations Show near Lae, Polye said such high-potential areas included domestication and commercialisation of indigenous commodities such as galip,
okari, ton and kava; enhancing the genetic potential of important crops such as sweet potato, taro, yam, banana, aibika, pandanus and sago; and post-harvest processing and preservation of many primary products so as to add value.
Polye also noted that work on the supply and value chain linking farmers to markets, both domestic and abroad, needed to be done.
The minister was particularly impressed with work on galip nuts, saying the country must make efforts to ensure such indigenous nuts are traded as commodities on the world market given their comparative advantages.
“Exploring and focusing on comparative and often absolute advantages are areas we need to be looking at closely,” Polye said.
“In today’s world, unlike 20 years ago, we are presented with a number of wide-ranging opportunities to find niche markets for our agricultural commodities, including fruits and nuts, indigenous crops, food crops, and especially organic products.
“One can look at the European market for such niche products, big emerging economies such as China and India for basic foods and food products; our neighbouring countries in the Pacific region for foods and products; even biofuels and medicinal products…,” Polye
told guests and visitors ot the show.
In acknowledging NARI for taking the initiative, he told scientists and stakeholders to double their efforts in researching the potential of galip nuts.
He said the Government would support development of the galip in the 2014 budget.
“As treasurer of the nation, I clearly see my role to not only allocate funds to priority service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure and law and order but also to make sure that necessary funds are invested in renewable resource sectors such as agriculture, especially innovative agriculture.”
This would allow rural and agricultural communities, especially smallholders, to participate in creating wealth and getting benefits from such wealth today and tomorrow, he added.
“I have seen the impressive performance of NARI over the years, during 2005-06 as minister responsible sceince, research and technology and in various capacities since.
“They have performed extremely well in terms of their delivery through improved technologies.
“I understand NARI has made available some 27 such technologies that are currently helping our farmers.
“Today, we have witnessed two such additions.
“I have seen this capacity is continuously developing. Commissioning of the biotechnology centre today is yet another example.’
Polye stressed the need for Papua New Guinea develop innovations to rise above the odds and be a force in the value chain of agricultural production at international level.
NARI appreciates the support of Polye and the government.
Galip nut domestication and commercialisation is one of the three projects NARI has made a commitment to deliver through its performance agreement with the government early this year.
Work is progressing to meet this commitment.
NARI started work on this important nut in 2007 through the ‘Galip Domestication and Commercialisation Project’, supported by the Australian Centre for Agricultural Research.
This was undertaken as earlier work indicated that research and development on this indigenous nut could address
food security and generate cash income for rural communities in the lowlands where it is grown.
Galip, of the Canarium species is being studied by NARI as the nut is of high quality with a unique taste and has the potential to become a world commodity.
It is a tasty, highly nutritious nut, containing proteins, vitamins, healthy oils, and anti-oxidants.
Galip also has some cultural significance in many areas such as Madang, Bougainville and West New Britain.
It is also a favoured food source throughout the lowlands.
Given the necessary support, NARI will continue to explore the potential of other indigenous fruits, nuts and other crops.
To stimulate development of a galip nut industry, among others, would require the formulation of appropriate policies and implementation by the Government and stakeholders.
NARI hopes that sustained funding will be available to support research and development efforts for galip and other crop and livestock species. – NARI