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BIO SECURITY RISKS MUST BE CONTAINED TO AVERT DECLINE IN EXPORTS, FOOD SECURITY AND POVERTY – HON SAM BASIL

Staff Reporter 8/07/2013 | |
Media Release 

Hon Sam Basil, Deputy Opposition Leader is concerned that whilst we deal and focus on the non-renewable resource extraction sector, we have turned a blind eye as well as forgotten that majority of the population rely on customary land and agricultural production to cater everyday for food, money for education and health costs, clothing, transport charges and other needs.

Hon Basil said that that since 2000, the country is been subjected to various incursions by pest and diseases that continues to affect the livelihoods of our people and may ultimately cause havoc on agricultural production and threatening food security and export revenue.
Photo credit: Sam Basil

The Deputy Opposition Leader said that Bio Security threats pose a major risk to the majority of the people of Papua New Guinea who rely on Agriculture and Livestock, where 85 percent of the people engage as smallholder farmers by using 97 percent of total land area being customary.

He said PNG experienced the coffee rust disease in 1986, Potato Leaf Blight in 1990’s followed by Cane Sugar Blight, Varroa Mite (bee and pollination), Coffee Berry and Cocoa Pod Borer, Cattle tick, Newcastle Disease and now coconut and betel nut palms wilting and dying out.

“PNG is amongst a handful of countries free of many of the world’s pests and diseases including avian diseases such as Newcastle Disease, Avian Influenza and others. Whilst commercial farming in the world is concerned about pests and diseases that affects bee as most pollination of crops relies on wild and domesticated bee, in PNG, we do not realise the impact and have not put a value on the work of bees as well as encouraging the ailing apiculture sector.”

The apiculture (honey-bee) industry is affected by varroa mite infection and now there is fear that tropeleleaps is present in the Highlands further threatening honey production but may impact on pollination of commercial and food crops.

Further, PNG has a growing poultry industry where 12.8 million birds are raised and sold by smallholder farmers worth K384 million and with the commercial sector is around K600 million annually”.

Hon Basil said that as an example, Australia allocates up to K250 million in its Budget to cater for Biosecurity risk response for eradication of pests and diseases and yet does not allow uncooked poultry and livestock products into their country. In PNG, our funding for containment is negligible yet we continue to allow imports that could be devastating for the country. Has the Department of Agriculture & Livestock and the National Agriculture Quarantine Authority (NAQIA) conducted Import Risk Assessments for the importation of fresh fruit and vegetables, uncooked meat products, poultry and egg products?

“We have many illegal trades between international fishing vessels and locals. There is unchecked movement of people between PNG and West Papua and Torres Straits. Further, uncooked meat and chicken and eggs from Australia are also imported where there is risk of Newcastle Disease”.

Mr. Basil challenged the National Government and the Department of Agriculture and Livestock to:-

1. Carry out research as to where and how the various pests and diseases are coming from and the likely threats to the country.
2. Conduct assessment on economic impact of varroa mite and other disease affecting bees and pollination as well as loss in production and economic impact of potato blight, cane sugar blight, coffee berry and cocoa pod borer and palm tree disease.
3. Coordinate the awareness and eradication programs as we have noticed that every Commodity Board like Cocoa Board, Coffee Industry Corporation, Livestock Industry Corporation have been undertaking preventive measures on individual basis that is costing the State so much resources without coordination.
4. Ensure Biosecurity protocols to be based on scientific risk assessments.

“Mr. Basil said that if PNG has virulent disease outbreaks, definitely there will be increase in costs of production and so the price for consumers. Hon Basil said that coffee rust, cane sugar and potato had been contained because at that time the sector was controlled or dominated by commercial plantations. Now, almost all the agriculture and livestock industry is in the hands of smallholders and the threat is real. We cannot wait and become like countries in Africa who were once like PNG and now facing hunger and starvation and extreme poverty. The country relies on people feeding themselves for food security and poverty alleviation and this is a warning call to immediately address this issue”.

HON SAM BASIL, MP
Deputy Opposition Leader

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