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aussie 28-09-2002 10:55 AM

Food Security, a growing concern in PNG
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PNG gives priority to food production in the face of a declining economy.

Food is the most important of all basic necessities. You can go without clothing and shelter, particularly in tropical PNG, but to forego food is to court death.

Yet policies and programs pertaining to food production and security has been neglected for a long time in PNG.

Papua New Guinea government agricultural policy in the past has stressed the production of export tree crops.

Emphasis on food production has, to some extent, been secondary.

With the population growing at over 3 per cent per annum, and faced with weak economic growth and the declining value of the kina, the government has only recently come to realise that food production is important not only to improve nutrition but also to replace the very high import bill on food products.

The government is now consciously pushing for increased food security and improving the marketing of local food crops to substitute for imported foods.

A National Food Security Secretariat has been established for the first time by the National Government to implement this program.

Food Security

Food Security exists when all people at all times have access to safe and sufficient food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and heatlhy life.

Food security is not the same as self sufficiency in food. A nation, or a region, may be self sufficient in locally produced food and yet may have inadequate food security.
Conversely a nation may be food secure, but may not be self sufficient in all foods.

Food Security is generally good in PNG. There are two major reasons for this:
  • the introduction and adoption of new species including sweet potato, cassave, Chinese taro, and maize, which offer advantages over other crops; and
  • the development of the cash economy which has enabled many people to purchase food with cash when their own subsistence supply is insufficient.

Despite the sweeping changes that have occurred in PNG, especially over the past century, both rural and urban people are still vulnerable to short term and long term food supply problems.

Waghi boys returning home with a successful catch. Inland fish farming is providing an alternative protein source for the highlands.

aussie 28-09-2002 12:11 PM

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Government shifts more emphasis to food production

Food Production Potential

Papua New Guinea has the potential for mass food production for the local market and even export. It is blessed with vast land area, reliable climate and good fertile soil.

A wide range of foods including sweet potato, taro, banana, sago, yam and cassava have been part of the diet of the people for the last century.

Consistent supply and marketing have been major problems associated with food and livestock production.

It has been a problem for producers to market their food and livestock products locally and to export food.

Deputy Director for Food Security Branch with the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, Siva Supiramaniam said to have a market locally and even for overseas export purposes, there must be a reliable production base and consistency with supply of food products.

"We are producing food but consistency is lacking", says Mr. Siva.

Young girls from Boera standing under banana bunches ready for church opening. Banana is a staple diet in many parts of the country.

aussie 28-09-2002 01:57 PM

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To be able to export to markets in Australia and New Zealand, we must hagve a reliable production base and consistency in supplying these markets.

"For example, taro, how many can you supply each month ?"

Mr. Siva said transport costs are so high that locally produced vegetables are very expensive.

"Marketing is another major problem, he said."

He said the food crop sector suffers from variable product quality, high posts harvest loses, limited extension services and an inadequate transportation and distribution network and disruptions caused by law and order problems.

Mr. Siva said the marketing of additional staple crops is adversely affected by their own low value to weight ration and high perishability.

Animal Production

Animal or livestock production is important to food security in two ways.

Firstly, it provides an essential source of protein. Secondly, it is becoming increasingly important as a source of income for people in rural and peri-urban areas.

There is a need for further research to develop information packages that are relevant to small-scale producers and to engage as many farmers in participatory research processes as possible.

There is also a lack of on information concerning levels of armer adoption, numbers and performance of village livestock.

Although PNG has a huge potential for livestock production, it will continue to depend on imported meats because the country is not producing enough, and it is currently cheaper to import meat.

Lamb flaps, for example, according to Mr. Siva are pet food in other countries but we consume it here because it is the most affordable for most Papua New Guinea familites.

He said introduction of sheep in the highlands did not work due to many factors including unsuitable climatic conditions.

Pigs are not only important to PNG's food security. They are a valued commodity of exchange in many parts of the country.

aussie 28-09-2002 02:01 PM

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However he said goat farming is doing very well in the country.

Mr. Siva said DAL is now encouraging small scale household livestock production of cattle, duck, chicken and rabbits.

He said it is difficult for most small growers or farmers to start large scale projects because of the unavailability and even more so the inaccesibility to credit facilities.

aussie 28-09-2002 02:04 PM


To address the problem, the Fresh Produce Development Company (FPDC), partly funded by the New Zealand Government was extablished to disseminate market and price information to fruit and vegetable growers.

By alerting producers to changes in relative prices and enabling them to respond to market signals, the FPDC advised producers and wholesalers on best handling practices for fruits and vegetables to reduce post harvest losses.

aussie 28-09-2002 02:10 PM

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Credit Scheme

Recently a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Rural Development Bank and DAL for farmers to obtain small loans from FPDC.

The agreement will now enable FPDC to take full responsibility for facilitating loans to food crop farmers under the Smallholder Agriculture Scheme (SAS).

Under the agreement, FPDC will be responsible for the provision of consistent and appropriate agricultural extension suppor5t to ensure that small holder food crop farmers attain maximum returns from their funded projects. FPDC will ensure that farmer training is provided on farm management efficiency apart from basic principles of cash management.

Alternative crops are currently being researched.

aussie 28-09-2002 02:14 PM

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One of the most interesting developments in the food and livestock sector was the establishment in 1996 of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI). This iinstitute was set up as a statutory authority with regional offices and to take over all DAL research activities in foodcrop and livestock.

The possible development of grain, rice and flour industries is still undergoing research and policy review by DAL.

The importance of alternative crops is currently being stressed by the government from the point of view of crop diversification and in response to the volatility in the commmodity prices for PNG's main export crops.

Yams which are both staple food and valued item of exchange in the Trobriand Islands and other parts of PNG

aussie 28-09-2002 02:38 PM

According to Mr. Siva, all Asianh countries are producing rice. With the low cash crop prices, it means less income for growers and with the kina value declining, Papua New Guinea is paying more and more for imported rice.

Mr. Siva said under the food security program, DAL is promoting small scale rice production by providing seeds to farmers.

With its vast land area, temperate climate and good soil, Papua New Guinea has a huge investment potential for food and livestock production.

Mr Siva said there are currently juoint ventuire programs being undertaken for the production of food and livestock products for the local market.

He added that a database should be set up within the Investment Promotion Authority that must contain information regarding landownership, infrastructure, climate, soil fertility, adding that there must also be linkages with the provinces.

He also suggested that the landowners interested in developing their land for food production should register with IPA so that potential investors can easily contact them.

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