December 18, 2017

Summit unearths blueprint for Agriculture sector growth in PNG

Last week’s inaugural National Agriculture Summit proved an outstanding success, with key stakeholders across the agriculture sector exchanging forthright, but productive, viewpoints on the current limitations holding back the industry – but also the opportunities to evolve it.

The summit saw government ministers, private sector representatives and other key players come together to discuss and brainstorm ways to improve conditions within the agriculture industry.
The three-day program saw working groups from numerous sectors collaborating to discuss challenges and recommendations for their sector in PNG.
There were working groups for coffee, oil palm, rice, finance, poultry, livestock and fresh produce among others.
Trukai Industries National Rice Development Manager Humphrey Saese believes Trukai Industries CEO Greg Worthington-Eyre provided an accurate viewpoint in his address during the summit.

“His points were very relevant and received agreement from other summit attendees,” Mr Saese said.

“Firstly, while our sector, including the rice industry, is limited by our geography and land suitability for agriculture there is ample land with growing potential still to be developed.

“The issue of economics does stall this, as does a lack of enabling infrastructure such as access to power, water and transport which inhibits development of that land. A high cost of inputs and a lack of secondary, supporting industries is an issue, as is a limited availability and cost of currency for inputs.”

As a result, the rice industry still has an unreliable, high-cost supply chain and limited access to large areas of potential production. The high cost of production limits the ability of the PNG rice industry to be competitive with lower cost, subsidised established international producers such as those based in South-east Asia.

“As Mr. Worthington-Eyre explained, land tenure is also an issue. There is a lack of legally secure tenure and an inefficient system for resolving land disputes, creating a high risk environment for commercial development. There is limited access to viable microfinance and therefore limited smallholder development,” Mr. Saese added.

On the plus side of the ledger, Mr. Saese reiterated his CEO’s firm belief that there are still abundant opportunities in the agricultural sector to be realised.

“Direct job creation through the development of inputs, services and operations, with the help of government and established industry investors like Trukai Industries, is still an area that can be substantially evolved.  Resulting indirect job creation along outside supply chains would occur – meaning economic stimulus, increased disposable income within communities, and a secondary industry growth.”

Mr Saese cited other important outcomes sought by Mr. Worthington-Eyre; that the sector needs a continuation of infrastructure development, with roads, power and water for storage and irrigation a priority. Subsidies and incentives for large scale producers would drive market access for smallholders, and would give smallholders greater scope to drive productivity gains; and Micro finance for smallholders to grow while exposing them further to extension services such as Resource Centres would also stimulate the industry.