Incoming Agriculture Minister Hon John Simon has urged staff of the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) and sector agencies and commodity boards to work with him to transform the sector.
The minister made the call when speaking at the handover-takeover ceremony with the outgoing Minister Benny Allan in early June 2019, which was witnessed by staff of DAL and representatives from sector agencies and commodity boards.
Agriculture is the backbone of PNG’s economy and implementing agencies must cooperate and utilize the highly qualified and experienced technical and scientific officers to move the agriculture sector and industry forward, he said.
Minister Simon also stressed on the importance of government funding to go direct to DAL and not being kept by other departments as was the case in the former government. There were also certain areas which needed to be improved, especially in extension and delivery of services, farmer training, agriculture curriculum in schools, and agriculture credit amongst others.
Simon said he will push for the National Development Bank to be changed back to Agriculture Bank and for agriculture personnel to move to the rural areas. The agriculture curriculum must be introduced into the schools and more emphasis in teaching the young children about the importance of agriculture.
He said Prime Minister James Marape was serious about transforming the agriculture sector to become more efficient, productive and robust; hence, DAL and the commodity boards and agencies must step up to meet the challenges and take back PNG and achieve economic independence.
“I need your support. We need to work together, utilize our knowledge, skills and experience and take the agriculture sector to a higher level.”
Simon said Marape’s commitment to agriculture was also strengthened through the appointment of three vice ministers who will be responsible for coffee; oil palm, copra and cocoa; and livestock. Simon said the time may be short, however, with government support towards agriculture being given priority, he was confident that many positive results will be achieved in the next two years.
Minister Simon, who is also the MP for Maprik and has been involved in agriculture as a cattle farmer and supported agriculture activities in his electorate, said he will rely on the expertise within the department and sectoral agencies and wanted nothing less than full commitment and positive mindset and also emphasized on accountability and transparency.
He also vowed to continue with the good work done by the outgoing Minister Benny Allan. He thanked Allan for taking DAL out of the intensive care unit and into the recovery ward. Simon said his challenge now was to take DAL out of the hospital ward.
Allan congratulated the new Minister and told him that he will be working with a good team in the department and sector. He said DAL had been branded as a corrupt organization, but he stressed that there are experienced and skilled agriculture officers who can be fully utilized if given the required funding and resources to perform their duties.
He said with a new prime minister and minister who are both passionate about agriculture, “we are heading in the right direction. Agriculture will create wealth, reduce poverty, and put money into people’s pockets.”