Coffee expert and long-time coffee administrator, Ricky Mitio, says it has been a deafening response from the government and at the political level, since the incursion of the coffee berry borer (CBB) in PNG, Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) media reports.
According to the CIC report on April 8, 2017, Mitio responded to the National Gazettes,which came out almost two months ago, on the detection and declaration of diseased declared areas by the Agriculture Minister, Tommy Tomscoll.
He said it is understood that the government’s priority is on infrastructure development and not Agriculture, however, what affects people’s lives should matter most to any government of the day.
Mr. Mitio urged all political leaders of coffee growing regions that the coffee industry is currently on its sick bed.
“Poor state agencies like the PNG Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) and the National Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) are incapacitated to effectively deal with climate change, and pests and disease outbreaks that continue to threaten the livelihood of rural communities,” Mitio implored.
He said CBB experts say once the pest enters a country, it is there to stay. It is estimated that crop losses can go up to at least 40 – 60 per cent, having a serious implication on the livelihood of more than three million farming-dependant rural people.
Mr. Mitio said he could already foretell rural migration issues that would trigger the flow of more people into towns and cities in search of services. He added that this will become a problem if the current situation is not addressed well with support from the government.
He said two months has lapsed with no feedback from the government.
“If this continues, I am advising the Coffee Industry Corporation to go ahead and tax the industry stakeholders to raise much needed capital to fight CBB.”
According to Mitio, it will be up to the government to bear all consequences to compensate coffee producers if this happens.
On his view of the approaching national elections, Mr. Mitio urged rural voters to vote leaders who can put agriculture as a priority.
He highlighted that given the poor record of financial control by the Agriculture Ministry for disbursement of the famous National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP) funds in previous years, the government must ascertain responsible state agencies, like CIC, takes control and fully acquit for CBB funding.
“I urge CIC management to immediately take control of CBB funding and target operational expenditure transparently and avoid unnecessary overhead costs.”
The coffee expert said it is important, CIC is learning from the experiences of cocoa pod borer and, will carefully address the coffee borer outbreak.