Drought Resistant Misconception

By Theckla Gunga – EM TV News, Port Moresby

An Agronomist with the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) says the concept of Papua New Guinea having a drought resistant crop, has been misunderstood.

NARI agricultural science expert, James Ernest, says although PNG has drought tolerant crops, they cannot survive after prolonged dry weather.

His comments come after locals debated the possibilities of PNG having a drought resistant crop.

“PNG has drought tolerant crops but they cannot survive for more than four months without irrigation,” Ernest said.

The debate over drought resistant crops has been put to the test in this current period of dry weather.

The effects of the prolonged dry season are slowing crippling cash crops and garden produce in the Central and Gulf provinces.

Plants like taro, banana and yam, that were planted about four months ago, are producing less, with some even starting to die.

Ernest said simple measures like smoking and salting food are important to make food supplies last for longer periods.

“I cannot think of any other methods to preserve food expect smoking and salting food,” he said.

In a separate interview, Gulf resident Simon Kedolo said four women died last fortnight because of food shortage in the province, sparking a public appeal to concerned authorities to assist people with food supplies.

Kedolo said though rice bags were delivered to Kerema, there are some areas still without food supplies.

“Both food and water are becoming scarce, and four women have died because there is no water, Kekolo said.

But for Central famers, Ernest advises locals to preserve both food and planting materials, because the dry weather is predicted to last for at least five more months.

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