By Delly Bagu – EM TV, Port Moresby
Minister for Trade, Commerce and Industry, Richard Maru, congratulated Village Garden Limited for the first harvest of the rice project.
He was also cautious of the project however, and told the media that key factors need to be considered before its roll-out.
He challenged the developer to prove that the hybrid rice was scientifically, technically and commercially suitable for the country.
Minister Maru was unable to attend the first harvest yesterday, due to the bad weather.
He congratulated the project first, before raising concerns. Minister Maru said, firstly the super hybrid rice must be scientifically proven to grow and yield well over two to three seasons in Central Province, to test its sustainability, before a rollout of the project to the SME for commercial production.
He said the hybrid rice used in this pilot project must be tested for soil fertility, and its ability to withstand various weather conditions, pests and other disease threats to prove its agronomic sustainability.
Mr Maru said the economic viability of the project must be proven. This includes the cost of production per hectare, the cost of processing and packaging must be established so that it can be compared to the cost of imported rice on the shelves.
Mr Maru also called on the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) to work in partnership with private sector players like Village Garden, and conduct independent research to provide reports to the government.
He said NARI has conducted rice research over 10 to 15 years. However this investment in rice research has not translated into the reduction of rice import, as the import bill has reached over K500 million.
Minister Maru said the government wants Papua New Guinea to produce its own rice and become a net exporter of rice in the next 3 to 10 years, as per the recent rice policy by the Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Tommy Tomscoll.
The government will provide the physical incentives and infrastructure to ensure Papua New Guinea becomes self-sufficient in rice production and be a net exporter as well.