Minister for Agriculture and Livestock and Member for Maprik Hon. John Simon visited Madang last week as part of his office’s focus on visiting all major projects and programs under the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) to see for himself the status of the programs and projects.
Minister Simon said research institutes are very important as they will ensure the smooth running of operations pertaining to development and growth of the industry.
“I decided to carry out these sort of visits to get straight to the core of many issues being faced in this great industry; There are many issues and barriers that have caused a strain in the growth and development of this industry: some of the major ones being faced currently, for instance are why are plantation’s being run down, why are there no growth and development in crops when PNG is rich and surrounded by vast variety crops.” Simon said.
Whilst paying an official visit to the Stewart Research Station located in Murunas, Madang province accompanied by heads of the Kokonas Indastri Koporesen (KIK), Minister Simon said “When we focus on growing or developing an industry, we must also ensure that the same attention is given to investing in research.”
The research station was established under the PNG Cocoa and Coconut Research Institute to conduct breeding and evaluation studies as well as agronomy and entomology research.
According to studies Copra is the fourth most significant agriculture cash crop of PNG. An estimated 2.6 million people are engaged in coconut activities in PNG to either generate income and / or as food to supplement their livelihoods.
Simon noted that in 2011 it was established that Copra and coconut prices were going downhill;He questioned what was being done about that. “Something is missing along the line-there is continuity in the industry, crop production needs to be increasing and this is where research and science comes in”.
The Minister noted that he appreciated what KIK continues to do adding that one pathways is to go downstream – this will add value to the industry, and another is also to go into cottage industry. He said he is happy with how the station at Murunas is being run and it is much better looked after than other stations he has visited in the country.
“These are the institutions that are run by the state adding that the Prime minister says there is money in the industry, we need to be able to raise money for ourselves; and one way of doing this is through researching the best pathways to commercialise each commodity” he said.
“My office is ready to support any development in the industry as long as each of the respective sectors are willing to develop and grow the crops under their responsibilities.”
The research centre has also gone into integrated crop farming where various different crops are now being observed and tested to integrate with coconut trees; this also include pineapples and vanilla plants.
In terms of commercialisation – there are currently 16 Small to Medium Enterprises engaging in the Coconut Industry with the aid of KIK.
Meanwhile, copra farmers in Mirap in Sumgilbar LLG, Sumkar district who have received support from the local Member’s office with a K200 000.00 subsidisation of cash crop prices, acknowledged the visit by the Minister for Agriculture.
Minister Simon said DAL will wholly support this move by the local MP and Minister for Sumkar and will ensure that the people are a major beneficiary in this initiative.