Close to 600 taro farmers from East New Britain graduated recently with flying colours after being trained by the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) at Keravat. During a graduation ceremony, 598 taro growers from the province’s four districts were awarded certificates for successfully completing an intensive hands-on training on the best practices of commercial taro production. The training covered nursery management, field management, postharvest and marketing.
Taro production in many parts of the province has been on the decline in the last few years due to a number of reasons. The main cause is the infestation by taro beetles. The beetles burrow through the edible taro corms or tubers, leaving tunnels and ugly shapes which make them look unappealing to buyers and consumers.
NARI, in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Fiji, devised and released a chemical control methodology that has reduced the impact of the beetle. This is true for taro production in the Gazelle peninsula where it was previously difficult to grow the crop successfully.
The taro beetle control mechanism now provides an opportunity for growers to farm on large scale commercial production. It also opens up door for farmers to export fresh harvested taro to urban markets such as in Port Moresby initially and eventually to overseas. Through a Taro Commercialisation project, funded under AusAID’s Agricultural Innovations Grant Facility, trial shipments were made to Port Moresby – which were found to be economically viable for farmers.
The successful piloting of taro export to the Port Moresby market and the training of farmers now create an avenue for the consistent production of quality taro both for domestic and overseas markets.
During the graduation, Project Manager Gadi Ling said the graduating farmers are now presented with the challenge to make it a reality. NARI Director General, Dr Raghunath Ghodake, said the occasion marked a success story because it signified real development in human welfare especially for women and children and therefore brings prosperity to Papua New Guinean communities. He also commended AusAID through the Agricultural Research and Development Support Facility for enabling the project to be implemented at NARI Keravat.