AGRIBUSI­NESS

Agri­cul­ture is a main­stay of PNG’S econ­omy, a ma­jor em­ployer, and a vi­tal source of ex­port rev­enue.

Business Advantage Papua New Guinea - - Contents -

While agri­cul­ture ac­counts for about 25% of PNG’S GDP, about 85% of na­tion­als are en­gaged in food pro­duc­tion at a sub­sis­tence level. Palm oil is the coun­try’s most valu­able crop, fol­lowed by co­coa, co­pra, rub­ber, spices and tea.

Be­tween 2001 and 2010 PNG’S soft com­mod­ity ex­ports grew in value by 12.8% per an­num to al­most K4 bil­lion for the first time, with forestry be­ing a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to this growth.

The key com­mer­cial live­stock in PNG are pigs, poul­try and cat­tle, with live­stock con­tribut­ing 13% of to­tal do­mes­tic food pro­duc­tion.

The PNG kina’s fall of about 14% in the sec­ond half of 2013 pro­vided a ‘parachute’ to some of the agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries suf­fer­ing from lower com­mod­ity prices, ac­cord­ing to Paul Barker, the Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of the In­sti­tute of Na­tional Af­fairs. How­ever, he sounded a note of cau­tion: ‘For those in­dus­tries re­quir­ing sub­stan­tial im­ported in­puts, whether plant and equip­ment, or live­stock feed and fer­tiliser, the weaker kina im­poses costs as well as pro­vid­ing gains.’

Co­coa con­cerns

De­spite grow­ing de­mand for co­coa around the world, the co­coa in­dus­try in Pa­pua New Guinea is in cri­sis, with pro­duc­tion in East New Bri­tain alone plum­met­ing by 82% be­tween 2008 and 2012.

The cause is the co­coa pod borer (CPB) pest, which has hit many co­coa-pro­duc­ing re­gions around the world.

Ac­cord­ing to the PNG Co­coa Board, pro­duc­tion in East Sepik Prov­ince and the Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion of Bougainville ‘will likely crash’ over the next two years, all due to the pest.

But pro­grams are in place to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of CPB. Just over 1,000 of East New Bri­tain’s 23,000 grow­ers are tak­ing part in a trial and train­ing pro­gram through the PNG co­coa buy­ing and ex­port­ing com­pany, Ag­mark, and the PNG Co­coa Co­conut In­sti­tute.

Most of them are get­ting higher yields now than they were even be­fore the pest ar­rived, ac­cord­ing to Ge­orge Curry, from Curtin Uni­ver­sity, Perth.

‘Typ­i­cally, be­fore CPB they were get­ting 300-400 kilo­grams of dry bean per hectare.

‘And then with CPB hit­ting, it al­most went down to zero but un­der the Ag­mark strat­egy, a lot of grow­ers are get­ting a tonne per hectare; some a good bit higher than that.’

The World Bank is car­ry­ing out sim­i­lar re­cov­ery pro­grams.

The fer­tile Markham Val­ley in Morobe Prov­ince, a ma­jor agribusi­ness cen­tre.

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