Minister Tomscoll opens 56th Goroka Agriculture Show

MESSAGE FROM THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND LIVESTOCK

Unedited speech during the opening of the Goroka Show on 14th September

The 56th Goroka Agriculture Show not only brings optimism, but also lots of hopes to our farmers, traders, marketers, service providers and our people to view and learn about our farming systems and establishes business linkages. This agriculture show offers an opportunity for exhibitors to show their agriculture produce and manufactured products in Goroka, the highlands, Papua New Guinea, and beyond.

The economy of PNG is a small formal sector focused on exports of natural resources, with an informal sector employing the majority of our population. The annual population growth is at 2.5% which is quite high for PNG.

The population of Papua New Guinea is 85% rural and remains predominantly subsistence agro-based, and contributing 25% of GDP to our country’s revenue, and supporting the 85% livelihoods of our people. The Agriculture sector is therefore vital, not only for ensuring food security, but also for the overall national development and welfare of our people. This year’s show theme “Progress through cultural diversity and sustainable agriculture” is reflective of this role.

I am aware of the agriculture potential in this country but this potential remains underutilized. As the government moves to invest more in agriculture sector, it is imperative that we put policies, legislations and programs in place that will position agriculture to continue playing its role of feeding our people and playing a distinct role in building and sustaining our national economy.

Papua New Guinea is rich with potential agricultural resources, and the government is mindful, that the agriculture sector is confronted with more challenges today than ever before. Our stakeholders are facing the challenge of increasing frequency of disasters and droughts associated with climate change, fluctuating global commodity price on the New York and London stocks associated with occurring events around the world causing supply and demand to rise and fall, appreciation of the Kina value caused by the increased domestic business and trade in the Petroleum, Energy, and Mining sector, high cost of market infrastructure associated with the deteriorating conditions of our roads and transport system, high cost of unskilled, semi skilled and skilled labour, and threats  from new foreign animal and plant diseases such as the Cocoa Pod Borer, Bogia Coconut Syndrome, Coffee Berry Borer, and many more.

These constraints and many others have directly resulted in low production (volume) in the recent past years. The O’Neill- Dion government is otherwise committed to devise means and ways to control the impact of these challenges.

This country has enormous potential to develop agro-based industrial crops, and we have in most recent time observed this growth in the increase of Special Agriculture Business Lease. As an equatorial country, we have large potential for developing high horticultural crops such as special flowers, fruits and spices. This country also has great potential for developing livestock as a means for economic livelihood for our people. Generally, the performance of the food industry is low and the country remains a net importer.

A few of the features of our current score card are:

  • The livestock industry contributes 13% to the total domestic food production in PNG. The meat consumption is increasing at 5% per annum indicated by importation of livestock product and our current import exceeds K140 million per year.
  • Coffee exports earns K460 million (average) per year of which 60% goes to coffee households
  • Cocoa production for 2010 – 2011 total 47,234 tonnes. Cocoa export earnings for the same year totalled K342.7 million.
  • Fresh food demand is expected to significantly increase. The Port Moresby market demand is estimated (could be more) at 140 tonnes per annum this represents a market value of K420 million per year, and
  • Oil palm industry represents currently a foreign exchange value of K1.718 billion for the country.

Prime Minister O’Neill stated on the outlook of the PNG economy at the beginning of this life of parliament that economic growth over the last 10 years averaged at 8%, and is expected to remain so in the medium term. Among the nations of the world, this growth rate is without doubt amongst the strongest recorded.

The immediate task facing this government will be to forge links between all the stakeholders in the agriculture sector which is evidently missing at the moment. This government wants to form alliances and networks with all the stakeholders in the agriculture industry.

At the same time, this government is focused on developing our smallholder farmers to graduate into Small Medium Enterprises. The government believes strongly that the future of the agriculture sector in PNG rest with the development of Small Medium Enterprises and Agro-based Industrial Crop Schemes.

In the immediate to medium term, the government is faced with the task to stabilise commodity price at the farm level so has not to allow the agriculture industry in PNG to grow into extinction.

Having being invited and given the honour to open the Goroka Agriculture show, it is my hope that everyone participating in the show, including our foreign visitors will take away the educational value of the show, and that the knowledge gained, will be used to increase our agricultural production and translate into income and employment generation.

In conclusion, let me thank the show committee for organising this show, the exhibitors for showcasing you products, and the show-goers for your participation in this event.  

Assik-tommy Tomscoll, MP                                                                                                       Minister

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