Pa­pua New Guinea eyes PH farm­ers for rice plant­ing

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - REGIONS - By Anselmo Roque and Christine Avendaño @Team_In­quirer

Pa­pua New Guinea may re­quire 50,000 Filipino farm­ers to grow rice on 7 mil­lion hectares of land in that coun­try, Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Em­manuel Piñol said here on Thurs­day.

Once Pa­pua New Guinea sat­is­fies its do­mes­tic re­quire­ments, the ex­cess pro­duc­tion may be sold to the Philip­pines, which is pro­vid­ing the tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise un­der a bi­lat­eral ar­range­ment with Pa­pua New Guinea, Piñol said.

Pa­pua New Guinea Prime Min­is­ter Peter O’Neill is in the coun­try for a state visit.

PhilRice tour

Piñol ac­com­pa­nied Pa­pua New Guinea’s Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Live­stock Benny Al­lan and Min­is­ter for Fi­nance James Marape in tour­ing a demon­stra­tion farm and fa­cil­i­ties of the Philip­pine Rice Re­search In­sti­tute (PhilRice) and the Philip­pine Carabao Cen­ter here, to show the coun­try’s wealth of in­for­ma­tion about its sta­ple food.

Piñol said about 30,000 ha of land in Pa­pua New Guinea are open for pro­duc­tion. “We are es­ti­mat­ing that from 50,000 to 60,000 agri­cul­tur­ists, farm­ers and op­er­a­tors of farm ma­chines will be needed in that coun­try … through pri­vate in­vestors,” he said.

Pa­pua New Guinea, which won in­de­pen­dence in 1975 from Aus­tralia, is lo­cated south­west of the Pa­cific Ocean. Its ma­jor crops are co­pra, cof­fee, tea and cocoa, with yams, taro, ba­nana and sweet pota­toes grown through sub­sis­tence farm­ing.

Hy­brid rice

Pa­pua New Guinea’s soil is very fer­tile, Piñol said. Re­sults of an ini­tial pro­duc­tion ven­ture—us­ing hy­brid rice pro­duced by the firm SL Agritech— yielded 8.5 met­ric tons of palay with­out the use of fer­til­izer.

The Philip­pines will also help Pa­pua New Guinea har­ness its 500,000 wild buf­faloes for eco­nomic use, Piñol said.

Dr. Sailila Ab­dula, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of PhilRice, said a team of agri­cul­ture ex­perts has been tasked to de­velop a 10-ha rice farm in Pa­pua New Guinea “in time for the hold­ing of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (Apec) meet­ing there this Novem­ber.” O’Neill is this year’s Apec chair.

In Mala­cañang, Pres­i­dent Duterte an­nounced the dec­la­ra­tion of agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tion “with em­pha­sis on rice pro­duc­tion” be­tween Manila and Port Moresby.

“We urge our of­fi­cials to ne­go­ti­ate and con­clude at the soon­est pos­si­ble time an agree­ment that will bring our bi­lat­eral agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tion to the modern era,” Mr. Duterte said in a joint press state­ment with O’Neill.

O’Neill said he ap­pre­ci­ated the joint dec­la­ra­tion that would ad­vance agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the coun­tries.

—RICHARDA. REYES

PH WEL­COME Pa­pua New Guinea Prime Min­is­ter Peter O’Neill is wel­comed by Pres­i­dent Duterte and flag-wav­ing chil­dren at Mala­cañang Palace grounds.

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