Aug 24, 2019 Last Updated 5:21 AM, Aug 23, 2019
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Papua New Guinea has been advised to tweak its macroeconomic policy and throw more weight behind agriculture, as it has the potential to enable more diversified and inclusive development.  

The World Bank makes this recommendation  in its latest newsletter Pacific Possible. It warns of rising economic uncertainty and fragile growth in PNG and recommends that authorities focus on structural transformation of the economy, especially in the agriculture sector, to help absorb any shocks.  

"Around 87 per cent of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas, and 75 per cent of these are engaged in a variety of subsistence and cash income agriculture activities. Staple products are the main source of subsistence, provide food energy and protein, and are a source of food security for rural villagers when income-earning opportunities are limited," the reports states.

"While most rural villagers combine these traditional subsistence and cash income activities, there is a small but increasing number producing value-added products such as high-value coconut products and spices."

Agriculture is one of the priority sectors in the government’s Medium-Term Development Plan for 2018–22 (MTDP III.

"To utilise the potential of agriculture as a source of income and job creation, the authorities should consider a proposed set of policy options and responses for securing sustainable rural livelihoods in food and agriculture," the World Bank says.

The resource-rich nation of over eight million people is home to a number of multi-billion dollar minerals projects and is vulnerable to substantial commodity price shocks, natural disasters and uncertainty in the performance of new and existing minerals projects. 

Its agricultural sector includes fresh food and export products like coffee, cocoa, palm oil, and copra and copra oil. 

JACKSSON Kalses describes himself as a small-time farmer in east Efate, the island in which Port Vila, the national capital of Vanuatu sits. From the income he gets from his vegetable farm of mainly cabbage, tomato and beans, Kalses provides for his young family including his three children who currently attend elementary school. “I have up to five hectares of land but I only farm about one hectare of that,” Kalses tells me.

“I’ve been farming for the last two to three years now, selling mostly to supermarkets and to the Central Market in Port Vila sometimes. I also do sell some vegetables to Iririki Island Resort, but I’m not a big supplier.” As if reading my mind, Kalses didn’t wait for my next question as he remarked: “My biggest problem is water. During the off-season, I am unable to grow many vegetables due to lack of rain.

“This usually happens during the months of August to December every year....

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SPC reform on ice

HOPES by the Pacific Community (SPC) to restructure one of its divisions were dashed when member government representatives refused to endorse the restructure proposal at a recent meeting in Vanuatu.

Officials who attended the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) instead told SPC to initiate consultations first with member states about the proposed restructure. “You had five years to research, prepare and circulate papers (about the proposed restructure),” acting director general of Vanuatu’s ministry of agriculture Benjamin Shing told the HOAF meeting held at the Iririki Island Resort last October. “Going forward, I would like to see the strategic and business plans to be circulated to members well before hand to allow them to comment on areas that are relevant to them.”

The meeting heard that only Samoa had a copy of the restructure plans, and this was sent to its delegates a fortnight before the Vanuatu meeting.  

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Vanuatu beef is premium

SHORTAGE of Vanuatu’s premium beef has prompted the island government to embark on an ambitious re-stocking programme that hopes to see the doubling of heads of cattle in eight years. With total cattle heads currently standing at 230,000, the Livestock Department of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Agriculture aims to grow this to 500,000 heads of cattle by 2025. First phase of the re-stocking programme, which was launched by the previous government of then Prime Minister Moana Carcases in 2012 cost the island’s taxpayers VU$30million (US$274,445).

Cattle farmers were encouraged to increase their cattle numbers w i t h t h e national government offering to subsidise the cost of buying new cattle. National government offered to pay 50 per cent of the cost as well as transportation of the animals. “It was an expensive exercise but the new government continued with the programme as it was committed to addressing beef shortage in Vanuatu,” explains Lee Bong, Livestock Director of the ministry of agriculture.

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Greener days are coming

1184 certified organic farmers

THE historic launching of Organic Pasifika at Laminu Stadium on Tanna Island last month (September 20) certified 1184 organic farmers from Tanna alone. It is a signal that greener days are coming to the Pacific. Vanuatu’s National Task Force coordinating the first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) in Port Vila from October 10 – 20, is racing against time, with confidence to pull off the first-ever regional event with a category of success.

The Vanuatu Government has launched the Agri Tourism Policy to bridge the gap between farm and restaurant. The bridge is working wonders in the Caribbean Islands, the birth place of PWA. Meanwhile Breakas Beach Resort on the southern outskirts of Port Vila is piloting organic dishes on its menu in line with the wishes of its health conscious customers.

The initiative is aimed at certifying the resort as an organic resort and to encourage other resorts to follow suit. At the end of the day it is a win-win situation for the organic farmer, organic resort and healthy people.

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