By: Elizabeth Guka – EMTV News Cadet Journalist, Port Moresby
With the recent successful harvest of rice from the trial rice project at 14 mile in Port Moresby, the Philippines Government is eager to be a major importer of home-grown PNG rice in the near future. Speaking during the official rice harvest ceremony last week, Philippines Ambassador to PNG, Dr Bien Tejano, highlighted that through the success of the rice project, PNG now has the potential to produce rice commercially, and that Philippines, whilst providing the technical assistance and man-power to PNG, would also buy rice from PNG.
Following a Memorandum of Understanding signed between PNG and Philippines during APEC in November to allow investors from the Philippines to access PNG soil to mass produce rice, the harvest at PAU signifies the start of a new investment opportunity between the two countries.
Ambassador Tejano said, “To the people of Papua New Guinea, there is nothing more to prove, it is now proven. “You have your own food, and if you are so kind-hearted, please do share it with us, not for free, we are willing to buy.”
According to Ambassador Tejano, Philippines has the technical expertise in farming rice, however due to the large population, they still import rice from other countries.
“Right now, even if we are known to be technicians on rice, we buy rice a lot every year from Thailand and Vietnam, because we have more than one hundred million people to feed,” said Ambassador Tejano.
Rice has become a staple food for Papua New Guineans, as it is for the 9th largest rice producers in the world, the Philippines. Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Benny Allan, said that through the agreement of the trial rice project, both countries will benefit from the project.
“We will grow rice here and meet the demand of the PNG population. We will import about four hundred thousand tonnes of rice, a year. “So once we meet the local consumption demand, then any surplus, the Philippines is willing to buy back or import from PNG. “It is a good arrangement for both countries,” said Minister Allan.
Minister Allan has assured that the trial rice project will pave way for investors to come into the country to invest in home-grown PNG rice.
He said, “We are beginning to go into large scale commercial rice production. So we have signed the MOU with the Philippines Government during APEC. This will pave way for investors from Philippines to come in with their technical assistance to invest in PNG.”
Whilst also highlighting the importance of food security, Minister Allan, also emphasised on the participation of Papua New Guineans in growing their own rice.
“It is important that PNG grows its own rice. “Food security is very important, and we must also participate in growing rice,” he added.