Higher Education Research, Science and Technology Minister Wesley Raminai being welcomed by staff during his first visit to NARI.

The National Agricultural Research Institute warmly received the Minister for Higher Education Research Science and Technology, Honourable Wesley Raminai on 9 April, 2021 at the Sir Alkan Tololo Research Centre, Lae, Morobe province.

With the position of Acting Director General vacant, and the NARI Council having ceased on February 1, new appointments were needed for both the Council and an interim Acting Director General.

In the presence of appreciative staff including Research and Development Coordinators from regional centres in Kerevat, Laloki, Tambul, Aiyura and staff from the John Kola Chemistry Laboratory, Mr Raminai announced the appointment of the new council members. The members have a wide range of expertise to be led by Professor Topul Rali, an internationally ac-claimed organic chemist and professor of Chemistry at University of Papua New Guinea.

“Your new board members are made up of scientists, a lawyer, an educationist farmer, a women farmer representative and three agri-business operators on top of the required number of the ex-officio members all within the requirements of the Act we have,” he added. The rest of the Council members are; Yala Yatu, Deputy Chairman. He was former Director for Pacific Institute of Leadership & Governance (formerly Adcol), and lawyer; Dr Ora Renagi, Vice Chancellor from University of Technology;

Nimo Kama, Coffee farmer and exporter from Eastern Highlands; Ronnie Ilam, farmer and educationist from East New Britain; Maria Linibi, representing women in agriculture; Albert Veretau representing the Southern Region; Department of Finance Deputy Secretary Dominic Ira; Department of Agriculture and Livestock Secretary Daniel Kombuk. The appointment of Warea Orapa as Acting Director General was officially announced. He automatically becomes an ex-officio member of the NARI Council. Mr Orapa will be in charge of NARI until the position is formally advertised. Mr Orapa is one of the found-ing senior scientist of NARI before leaving to serve as an advisor to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Recently, he has occupied an executive position in National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority. The members of the Council were then sworn in by Senior Magistrate, Pious Tapil of the Lae Magisterial Service. In a brief address, the minister urged NARI management and scientist to think outside the box and conduct research that will change the country.

Minister Raminai expressed, “I want to see NARI engage in a wide ranging but relevant research and development work that will contribute to the national development goals. I want to see NARI research and development work resulting in export of products to international markets for much needed foreign exchange. “

“There is no reason why NARI cannot venture into research of non-food products such as essential oil, medicine’s, other pharmaceutical products from plants and animals with the aim of marketing both domestically and overseas. “The Marape-Basil government wants to see NARI’s focus on research that leads to export of our agricultural products to overseas markets,” the Minister added.

A niche market Mr Raminai suggested NARI to tar-get is the organic food market. The Minister ex-pressed that overseas market has demand for indigenous and organic food, especially food that keeps people healthy and live longer. There is potential in indigenous mushrooms, fruits and nuts like Karuka, Marita, chewing sugarcane, pitpit, and livestock species which could be researched and improved to meet export standards. A point he raised also is to work towards developing a product as part of the strategic or corporate plan.

“Imagine getting only one product on the super-market shelves in Tokyo or in Singapore within the next five years in the life of a strategic or corporate plan will be a major contribution by NARI to the national economy”, Mr Raminai added.

He further urged NARI and its Council not to rely too much on the Recurrent and PIP budgets from the government but look at increasing revenue for the institution through partnering with the private sector and development partners to expand into commercializing crops, livestock, natural products from the forests and the sea into products for internal and export markets.

The Minister thanked the former Director General Dr Sergie Bang for 20 years of service to NARI, starting as a senior scientist before being appointed Deputy Director General and Director General in the last seven years. The Minister and the members of the Council later toured some of the research facilities and spoke with scientists on research and development work being carried out at the Momase Regional Centre before the new Council met for its inaugural meeting.