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05-01-2004, 03:58 PM
by JAMES KILA

AN INDUSTRIOUS local Agaun man from inland of the Alotau district in Milne Bay province is in the process of reviving coffee interest in his area.

He is Paulus Momna.

Mr Momna has already constructed a wet-factory to process coffee cherries for farmers in the area using his own funds. This he said is to revive the interest of the people to return to cultivating coffee as their source of cash income.

Agaun area produces a good quality high altitude arabica coffee. However, the biggest most problem he is currently faced with is the means to market his coffee and that of his fellow farmers.

He said the wet mill is just there but there is no added facilities to support marketing. Furthermore, this has delayed his progress on expansion arrangement

“Once I get everything sorted out we can continue to sustain the interest of the people,” says Momna.

Milne Bay is heavily dependent on water transport especially for many of the outer islands where coffee was introduced to by the colonial administration. The inland areas where coffee is grown also face transportation problem as cost of freighting coffee out is excessive for the little people.

A start on coffee in the Milne Bay province was made with robusta coffee in 1954. Over 250 small plots were planted each containing with fifty or more coffee trees. Planting materials were supplied free-of-charge by the colonial Department of Agriculture Stock and Fisheries. The District Officer in Milne Bay reported in 1957 that small plots of robusta had been planted in the Sagarai Valley, on the south and north-east coasts, in Milne Bay and the D’Entrecasteaux, Misima, Sudest and Rossel islands.

The agricultural survey during the Australian administration indicated that highland variety arabica coffee could be expected to thrive in the mountainous hinterland of Goodenough Bay and Agaun. By 1957 some 400 plots of arabica had been planted 53 containing 500 or more trees each.

It is reported that an estimated 15,000 robusta and 50,000 robusta trees were established in Milne Bay by the end of 1957.

Mr Momna said there is coffee still being cultivated by people in the province but the problem of marketing is affecting the farmers

“For 2003 coffee flush I am worried. That is causing tension and suspicion amongst the growers. On top of that we are also thinking of revitalizing the coffee growers association, and we have been kept in the dark. The issues has been discussed with our regional officer and I want this sorted out quickly,” says Momna.

“We want to re-organise. We are also thinking of organizing a cooperative society on marketing arrangement with the CIC. We are working around the clock to make this arrangement,”

“I want the Agriculture Minister to sit with the Electorate member and the Governor to sit and critically look at funding the major roads to coffee growing areas, while we put with the CIC with Freight Surety arrangement for short-term arrangement. So as soon the roads turns up we can sustain the interest of the coffee farmers. We need close consultation with our MPs for infrastructure to get the road in to our coffee growing areas,”

“We need to organize ont only for Agaun but other areas in the Milne Bay province. We really need to get ourselves organized. Once we sort this out we will expand our coffee,” said Mumna.

He added that consolidated arrangement must happen to link up with the Coffee Industry Corporation.

“The immediate problem needs to be sorted out first. We need to get the 2003 coffee out of the way and convince the farmers and that will raise the interest of the coffee farmers,” Mr Momna said.

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