NRI: Food costs too high

FOOD is a basic need and the cost of it in recent times has become too expensive for many families, National Research Institute Deputy Director Dr Musawe Sinebare said yesterday.

Speaking at a media briefing on the Food Security Conference next month, Sinebare said the high cost of food needed to be properly addressed in order to deal with food security for individuals, communities and the country. He said the dynamics of food production, handling, transporting, storing and selling, needed to be made known to policy- makers in order for sound policies to be made in case of disasters and to prepare for food security.

He said this had mostly been left to entrepreneurial farmers to provide food on a larger scale without proper infrastructure and support. He said because of the poor understanding of food production dynamics, “this conference will be bringing together people in the food production and distribution chain to share experiences to help the government make appropriate policies”.

“Food production in PNG has always been on meeting individual family and household needs. Anything surplus is traded or used in feasts or wedding ceremonies.
“With the cash economy, families are now selling surplus produce to meet other essentials,” he said.

Sinebare said the challenge now was to produce enough for many people.
“We don’t have large commercial farms that can meet the demands of a growing population in towns and villages, which is why whatever we fall short on is imported.
“We need to identify land that can be used to plant food that we will need and not use arable land for export crops,” he said.

He said with the LNG coming on, “communities are now hard hit to provide enough food for the camps and for their own individual family needs”.

Sinebare said one way to help farmers was to reduce the cost of food production by subsidising some of the costs involved such as transporting the food from one area to another.
“If the government, through its relevant authorities, subsidises this, then farmers can produce more food and people can have chances of buying food cheaper. It can provide for storage areas where perishable items can be stored for a certain time. This is why we need good policies that the government can use,” he said.

The conference will be held at the NRI from Sept 6-8.

SOURCE: The National, August 25, 2011

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