Papua New Guinea to relax the ban on imported vegetables to address the acute shortage of onions, capsicum and tomatoes in shops and supermarkets.
Agriculture and Livestock Minister Tommy Tomscoll told The National yesterday that bulb onions, tomatoes and capsicum would be allowed into the country ― but only from Queensland in Australia. The variation to the ban was gazetted on Tuesday.
Tomscoll imposed the ban in August to protect the local fresh vegetable industry. Banned vegetable imports included Irish potatoes, bulb onions, round cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, capsicum, pumpkins, peas, zucchini, eggplant, pak choi (Chinese cabbage), French beans, lettuce and celery.
Some traders, including informal sector and market vendors, spiked the prices of local vegetables to take advantage of the shortage caused mostly by the prolonged drought.
One of the areas worst hit was Tambul in Western Highlands which supplied most of the local produce.
“Because of the drought, some vegetables, particularly onions and tomatoes, were adversely affected in terms of the supply,” Tomscoll said.
“I have considered the reactions in the consumer market, and there’s a short supply. As a result of the short supply, the prices at the retail stores have shot up (although) the quality is low. The ban will continue to be imposed, but I have made variations to the ban.
“There will be (imports of) onions, capsicum and tomatoes – these are particularly short on the market.
“They will be imported from next week until our farmers return (to production), which is when I will remove the variation. People can expect to see these items back on the shelves.”
Tomscoll noted that tomatoes from the hydroponic farms at 9-Mile outside Port Moresby and Sogeri were selling for as high as K30 per kg.
“I hope that they will take heed of that (partial lifting of ban),” he said.
Meanwhile, when asked who he had consulted before imposing the ban on imported vegetables, Tomscoll said: “I listen to what Fresh Produce Development Authority tells me. They are the most important people who are an agency of my ministry. I will go along with what they say. I will not go along with other agents who represent their own interests. The local farmers need support.”