by Allanah Leahy – EM TV News, Port Moresby
This year, funding for agriculture was relatively non-existent, reducing production and forcing commodity boards across the sector to fall back on leftover funds from 2014.
The funding difficulties are affecting commodity boards and government agencies such as the Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority and the National Agricultural Research Institute.
These problems were highlighted on Wednesday at PNG’s Agriculture Sector Stock-Take Forum.
Department of Agriculture and Livestock Secretary, Dr Vele Ila’ava, said the agriculture sector’s K2 billion revenue comes from a mere two per cent of the country’s total cultivable land mass, presenting the staggering potential in the sector.
In order to implement any changes to boost the sector into the export market, more government investment is needed, as well as collaboration with other government departments such as the Department of Implementation and Rural Development.
The Agriculture Commercialisation Equity Fund was allocated K40 million in the 2014 budget, but Department of Agriculture and Livestock Minister Tommy Tomscoll questioned its whereabouts yesterday, during day two of the forum.
PNG’s Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority, or NAQIA, is one of the many agriculture bodies struggling to expand bio-security efforts amid funding constraints.
The department’s Functional Expenditure Review Unit has worked to simplify funding complexities, establishing two main bodies, and amending legislation and functions.
Leaders pointed out agriculture’s K2 billion contribution to the economy, and its’ direct benefits to the farmers on the ground. Commodity boards were urged to be innovative in the wake of limited funding, as the department continues to pursue consistent funding to build on the country’s prospective agriculture sector.