By Fabian Hakalits – EMTV News, Port Moresby
The Farmers and Settlers Association have called on the Agriculture and Livestock Department (DAL) with its commodity agencies to be proactive in 2016.
The association expressed concern over the government’s lack of commitment to the agriculture sector.
In a statement released yesterday Association President, Wilson Thompson, said the department and management of commodity boards such as CIC must ensure the agriculture sector progresses and delivers results.
“We are concerned over the government’s lack of commitment to the agriculture and livestock and rural entrepreneurship sector. We anticipate this sector will change and expand next year with some slight increase in the operational budgets.
“DAL and the management of Commodity Boards such as CIC, Cocoa, Spice, KIK, CCRI, LDC, FPDA, Rubber, NAQIA and OPIC must advice the Boards and Minister in proactive manner to ensure the sector progresses forward next year rather than taking back seat and expecting the farmers to deliver results,” he said.
Mr Thompson said that the association was concerned about lack of markets and farmers outlets.
“We are concerned about lack of markets and farmers’ outlets yet we expect the town authority and LLG to cater for local markets but DAL and FPDA must work with local authorities as that is the first market access for farmers. The markets that need to be immediately improved are such as Goroka Kainantu, Lae and Gordons Markets where vegetables are sold and restaurants and hotels and supermarkets even source their supplies.
“Also we had issues of animal and plant pest and diseases which needs more support against bio threats including importation of uncooked poultry and livestock products from Australia. We commend the Minister for the ban and expect the local industry to expand but must ensure prices do not increase.
“Then we have the Livestock Development Corporation closing down with abattoirs closed and some assets transferred to Coffee Industry Corporation including bee-keeping and honey production and processing. While CIC is struggling with coffee production and decline in production the Zuguru Ranch EHP and Stewart Station Madang is given to CIC. Livestock including apiculture is a separate function as the name of the Ministry indicates and has no relevance to coffee and must be returned to DAL and funded accordingly.”
Mr Thompson said as a farmers organisation is not against such agricultural innovations but the amount of money spent on wastage with little outcomes must be addressed.
“Then we have a situation in the coffee industry where coffee export licence is issued to districts which may see 89 district coffee export licences without proper factories and warehouses. We might not have production and our quality may be compromised, yet we want existing coffee exporters to have ten thousand hectares of coffee when our plantation sector has collapsed and available state land such in Arona, Garaina, Sogeri, Baiyer, Waghi is laid to waste.
“We are well aware that the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Bank of PNG warned of the need to diversify and support agricultural sector. They have almost expressed concern about declining tree crops production and export earnings over the last five years. Even with the World Bank, IFAD and EU funding of PPAP in coffee and cocoa, the production and export figures are not impressive to improve the sector.
“We are concerned that the commodity boards have literally been left unattended hence the industry agencies are operating without Boards which might be causing lack of focus and governance issues.
“In 2010, the Farmset Association and coffee smallholders gave a petition to CIC Board and Ombudsman Commission and Minister Moses Maladina in Goroka to fix the coffee industry. In March 2014, Farmset Association and Smallholder Coffee Farmers from WHP, Jiwaka Simbu EHP and Morobe circulated a petition and this was presented to Parliament by in August 2014.
“On the back of these issues, HFSA, Rural Industry Council and Institute of National Affairs wrote to the Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister and Chief Secretary of our concerns about operations and governance of Boards and Commodity Agencies. The matter of Board was taken to Court and the results from OPIC, Rubber and CIC supports our approach. We therefore call on the Personnel Management Department and Agriculture and Livestock Department to undertake process of appointing stakeholders to all boards in the ministry to move the sector forward, that should commence immediately.”
The association is concerned that DAL and commodity boards should focus on rehabilitation program to increase tree crops and fresh food production; rehabilitate and restock various livestock station and carry out breeding and distribution ;focus on re-establishing bee keeping and honey production; increase training for farmers in production and post-harvest handling.
“DAL and the commodity boards must connect with their own research agencies. They have to establish dialogue with National Agriculture Research Institute and National Research Institute and universities to engage in innovative research including proper and reliable statistics to work with relevant outcome frameworks to measure outputs and also change the approach which is outdated hence the declining fortunes in the sector.
“DAL must convene a Consultative Meeting in Goroka to address the issues related to the industry,” he said.