Papua New Guinea requires more investment in agriculture given the enormous potential the sector has to not only improve the economy but also to put money into the pockets of local farmers. This can be achieved by improving value chains of various food crops such as sweetpotato, Irish potato and bulb onion among others.
NARI Director General Dr Sergie Bang made this firm statement following the first visit of Australia’s Consular General Paul Murphy to NARI on February 28, 2017.
As a national Institute mandated to conduct agricultural research, Dr Bang said NARI has to find ways through research to ensure farming communities produce improved crops to meet the existing market demand. He said NARI has developed over 28 technologies and is working closely with partners such as the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Australia's Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to drive forward agricultural production with local farmers.
Australia has been providing technical and funding support to NARI through various projects under ACIAR and DFAT which include drought response agricultural rehabilitation, examining women’s business acumen in PNG: working with women smallholders in horticulture, and support for a commercial sweetpotato production and marketing system in the highlands of PNG.
Dr Bang said commercializing agriculture will not only improve the economy but also put money in the pockets of farmers through the income they earn from selling their fresh produce.
“Our farmers must be able to earn an income to sustain their livelihoods which is also important for the country’s economy. Having money in their pockets will mean they can be able to pay and access basic needs such as health and education among others," Dr Bang said.
He added that to commercialise agriculture, highly-trained agricultural specialists and adequate funding and resources are needed to deliver on major agricultural projects. Dr Bang believes that a good commercial agriculture sector should be complemented with resources as equipment to up-skill officers to better serve farming communities.
Murphy said Australia has a long relationship with PNG and supporting the agriculture sector is one way of strengthening this partnership. Murphy also toured exhibits of various NARI projects and programs which included livestock (pig feed, chicken, and aquaculture), food processing and post harvest, Galip nut (Canarium) development (an Australian Government-funded project), and farm mechanisation (kisar rice mills).
The Consulate General also acknowledged NARI as a long-time key partner in delivering projects over the years and pledged Australia’s continued support. Australia’s committed to building its economic and strategic partnership with PNG and Lae is no different.