Agriculture and Livestock Minister Benny Allan has called for a greater attention to Papua New Guinea agriculture by the Government and all stakeholders as the sector sustains the livelihoods of more than 85 per cent of the country’s population.
Speaking during the official opening of the Highlands Regional Consultative Workshop on the development of the National Agricultural Strategic Plan 2019-2029 (NASP) in Mt Hagen on March 21 2019, Allan said the agriculture sector deserves more attention and importance in terms of planning and budgetary support.
He said the regional workshop was necessary to get the views of stakeholders, mainly farmers and provincial administrations, in the development of NASP which is aimed at transforming the sector and creating wealth and income-earning opportunities and improved livelihoods.
The NASP is focused on taking the country forward in the next ten years and must take into account the issues and challenges affecting the performance of the sector and capture the concerns of the PNG farming communities, said Allan.
He said the plan must align to the National Government’s Medium Term Development Plan III and relevant policies and plans, and also consider the good partnerships with development partners and international donor agencies and other stakeholders who are supporting agriculture development.
Minister Allan said the expectation of the plan was also to get the Government to provide more direct funding to promoting agriculture activities right down to the district and village levels. He said the lead agency in agriculture should be strengthened and provided with more budget support to enable it to perform its mandated roles and responsibilities in supporting agriculture delivery services.
Allan also made reference to the proposed multi-billion kina agro-industrial parks to be established in Eastern Highlands and Western Highlands as potential interventions to promote various major agriculture projects in highlands region. He said if the initiative is approved and implemented, this will transform the sector in a big way in the highlands.
He said the Ministry and Department of Agriculture and Livestock and agricultural commodity boards and agencies are working to develop, expand, promote and support a wide range of crops including coffee, cocoa, fresh produce, livestock and others.
He said the NASP should address one common problem faced by vegetable farmers in the region which was the transportation of fresh produce, cool room storage facilities, and marketing facilities. He hoped that DAL, Fresh Produce Development Agency and the private sector can work together to make some improvements in this subsector.
PNG’s coffee and cocoa are recognized internationally and its top quality must be maintained as well as to promote the products to consumers worldwide.
Allan said DAL has put together an Expert Working Group (EWG) comprised of experienced and qualified agriculturalists with wide sector knowledge and skills to assist in formulating the NASP.
The workshop was conducted at the McRoyal Hotel from 20-21 March during which the Expert Working Group engaged with stakeholders from the seven highlands provinces. DAL facilitated the workshop with support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
The provinces made presentations on their respective agricultural status, including plans, projects, partnerships and challenges while the private sector discussed a number of modalities for value chain development of fresh produce (Tininga) and coffee (PPAP project).
Among of the major challenges expressed by the provinces included limited resourcing (due to other priorities), lack of capacity, value/supply chain hindrances including adequate markets, inconsistencies, challenges in access to credit facilities, and law and order issues.
This was the 2nd workshop following the Momase forum in Madang a week earlier. The next regions will be New Guinea Islands (Kokopo) and Southern (Alotau).