Tony trying his hand on farming

People
Tony Yagu at his cocoa farm at the foot of Mt Karamui.

By ZACHERY PER
TONY Yagu decided to become a farmer after dropping out of Grade Eight.
Today he thinks he will become the most successful cocoa farmer in Karamui, Gumine, Chimbu.
“The high price of cocoa motivates me. Today I have 11,660 cocoa trees on my farm in Karamui.”
Tony, 45, is married to Christina Isaac from Omkolai also in Gumine. They have sons Philip, Isaac and Kum, and daughter Christine.
He attended Karepa Primary School from grades one to six and Omkolai for Grade Seven before completing Grade Eight at the Rintebe High School in Eastern Highlands. He then dropped out because of financial problems.
Tony turned to the land at the foot of Mt Karamui and grew cocoa. Today, he has already sold 1,000 bags of organically-grown cocoa to the Agmark Group in Lae.
He plants vegetables and peanuts on the side.
He began by planting 5,000 coffee trees and became one of the biggest coffee growers in Karamui. But he could not meet the high cost of air freighting it to Kundiawa or Goroka to sell.

Tony Yagu and helpers unloading the cocoa dryer parts from an aircraft at the Karamui airstrip.

“We rely on air transport provided by the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and Seventh Day Aviation. But the high freight cost is a hindrance. I could not make enough money to look after my family.”
His break came when the Chimbu agriculture division in 2012 freely distributed polythene bags and seedlings.
“I was one of the first farmers to plant cocoa. I made the first harvest in 2014 and sold 56 kg and received K560.”
He has 86 bags at the Karamui airstrip. It costs K200 to send a bag by air.
When Prime Minister James Marape and his delegation visited Karamui recently, Tony poured out six bags of cocoa so that they could see his farm produce.
“I did it to show PM Marape and his delegation especially Agriculture Minister John Simon that I have no way to transport my cocoa. I need the help of the provincial government, agriculture department and perhaps the PNG Cocoa Board. If nothing can be done by the end of the year, we will burn the bags at the airstrip.”
He bought a K11,500 dryer from Lae in September.

“ I have 84 bags of high quality cocoa sitting at Karamui airport. I need the Government to provide freight subsidy.”

“We need a dryer to dry the cocoa to get quality beans.”
He thanks Salt Nomane Karamui MP Geoffrey Kama and Marape for coming to Karamui and seeing for themselves the struggles cocoa farmers face.
He also hopes roads can be opened to help farmers transport their farm produce to the markets.
Tony sees the potential in cocoa and using the land to generate income. He knows that the Government is investing a lot in agriculture and developing rural areas.
He and fellow farmers are doing their bit and hope the Government can assist them to become successful and help the economy.
“I have 84 bags of high quality cocoa sitting at Karamui airport. I need the Government to provide freight subsidy.”

4 comments

  • This is a real issue facing our people in such remote part of PNG. I think Karamui has the potential to be PNG’s agriculture hub, situated on the boarder, the climate is just perfect for agriculture; rich in fertile land and can produce mixture of food crops, both from the highland and the coastal. if the responsible government can come up with some constructive plans to rescue our people, they should consider freight subsidies for such cases, not only in Karamui, but to other remotest parts of PNG as well. I responsible government should critically take heed of this.

  • Tony’s story is similar to many cocoa farmers with road access or remote places of our country. It’s really uneconomical.
    We continue to be slaves to a chocolate industry thats worth us$100 billion annually. Growing a crop that’s domestically of no use to us. Our farmers are the real losers in this industry.

    We need to be smart and innovative.

  • Yes i share the same sentiments as Santo. Someone has to do a value chain analysis for commodities such as cocoa and coffee which are mainly exported as raw products overseas and processed into final products there. Take coffee for example; It will be interesting to see the huge disparity between amount earned by our farmers and the coffee shop in Europe who sell final instant coffee to customers. It is our people who have been and will still be missing out good time. I’m not sure of the current situation but some 15 years ago, for every 10 toea earned by our farmers for every kilogram, the cafe in Europe earns K100.00. Now you can see the gap. The same applies to cocoa. The issue here is when can our government open up the rural areas for our farmers to transport their produce to markets more cheaply? We hope the current Marape / Basil Government’s National Roads Policy in connecting PNG will be the solution to the dilemma faced by our hard working farmers on a daily basis.

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