There has been much discussion and public comment on the Minister for Agriculture, Tommy Tomscoll’s decision to ban the import of vegetables from overseas. I previously highlighted in a press release that while the original objective of stimulating local production was laudable, the implementation process was abysmal.
Since issuing my press release, the Minister has seen fit to suggest that the reason for the decision is one of bio-security i.e. the keep pests out of PNG. This suggestion is laughable as imports have been taking place for years and any impact
of pests would have been obvious long before this point in time. Moreover, the
Minister’s apparent new decision to let in produce from an extended number of countries clearly puts PNG at greater bio-security risk.
The granting of an effective monopoly to one importer, from one region, in one
foreign country also defied logic and was overturned by intervention of the Prime
Minister. The Prime Minister’s intervention has engendered some sanity into the
Numerous commentators have described the need for more extension services to
increase vegetable production, guarantee quality and supply and the need to effect
some radical changes to the cost of the supply chain.
In Goroka and Mount Hagen we have good quality vegetables for sale but by the
time these reach Port Moresby they are more costly than imported vegetables and
quality has deteriorated. Let us have some sensible dialogue on how to reduce
supply chain costs and improve shipment times. Why not arrange for Air Niugini to
operate at cost cargo services from the highlands to Port Moresby as a service to the
nation. If a holistic approach to the problem is not adopted, it is a complete waste of
time growers planting additional acreage.
The above situation should not have occurred and the disparaging remarks made
concerning those who pointed out flaws in the policy implementation are likewise
highly regrettable. It is a case of the Minster attempting to do a “silip kirap” policy in
his vain attempt to assist PNG farmers. ”.
As leader of the New Generation Party, I want to indicate that we have pledged
ourselves to support the Government until the next election. I wish however to
publically indicate that we expect the Government, of which we are a part, to
properly consider and debate new policy and that policy not be unilaterally
implemented by Minister’s. The current situation has arisen as this process was not
adequately followed by the Minister and this has necessitated revision of policy on
the run”. The situation is not conducive to good public administration and is
embarrassing to any government.
We are equally concerned that at a time when the Secretary Finance is seeking the
utmost financial restraint from Departments and we seem unable to meet a
commitment of K40 million to fight a TB epidemic, we nevertheless pledge US$38
million (K115 million) to assist Tonga run the Pacific Games. It appears obvious to
us that the lives of PNG citizens are more important that an international sporting
event and Government priorities must change.
We sincerely hope that a lesson in policy development and implementation will be
learned by all concerned.