Support cocoa growers for more revenue

Editorial

THE 2017 Cocoa Board annual report by Agriculture Minister John Simon presented in Parliament on Friday tells us the potential of what this commodity can bring into the country in terms of revenue.
A total of K270.7 million was generated from cocoa exports in 2017, representing 25 per cent or K90 million less than the previous year.
Today, cocoa is grown in 14 of Papua New Guinea’s 22 provinces with East Sepik, Bougainville, Madang, East New Britain, Morobe, West New Britain and New Ireland being the major producers.
Over the past five years, cocoa production averaged 43,867 tonnes with 90 per cent being produced by small holder farmers while 10 per cent was from the plantation sector.
The production increase signifies a comeback for cocoa in PNG after the industry was ruined in March 2006 by the outbreak of the cocoa pod borer.
Globally, PNG accounts for only one per cent of the total production.
In the global front, future prospects for PNG cocoa is looking bright.
Much of the increase in volume is being driven by the emerging markets in Brazil, China and India.
The minister in his report said the increase in production was due mainly to conducive weather that supported crop development and the success of various intervention programmes in the industry coming to fruition.
Some of the interventions and programmes in the industry highlighted were the district cocoa nursery project and the cocoa freight subsidy scheme.
The cocoa board has embarked on a district cocoa nursery programme aimed to have a nursery in each of the cocoa districts to assist farmers to increase production and to eliminate disease by centrally coordinating all activities from nursery to planting, harvesting and production.
Last year, Simon who is also the Maprik MP, said his electorate in East Sepik stands to earn about K150 million annually if its cocoa extension programme is tied together well.
Having done his calculations, Maprik MP John Simon knows the potential this crop can return to his district purse.
The district targets to plant around 2.2 million seedlings a year between the 21 economic zones.
The extension programme will cost around K35 million to implement over five years.
In East New Britain, the Cocoa Board is now taking a different approach to growing the country’s cocoa industry.
They are supplying seedlings, building cocoa nurseries, conducting trainings as well as looking at other agriculture-related projects in the province.
The cocoa industry was also trying to refurbish all plantations in the province, rehabilitate them and replant cocoa trees.
Cocoa Board PNG chief executive Boto Gaupu said cocoa farmers in the province and other cocoa producing provinces in the country needed cocoa seeds as the demand was at a peak.
The majority of PNG’s population live in the rural areas, and their livelihood depends largely on subsistence agriculture.
Agriculture accounts for about a third of the gross domestic product (GDP) and it is a sector dominated by smallholder farmers.
PNG cocoa had the potential to compete with the best in the world given its great flavours.
It is also important to sustain good quality cocoa along with quantity.
The cocoa industry needs major interventions from the government in order to facilitate new planting materials and low-interest long-term agricultural loans.
The challenge is to find a way to ensure that growers in rural areas get more money from their cocoa.

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