Minister calls for R&D focus on high potential and impact resources

PNG needs to focus more on research and development work in high potential and impact areas, says Treasury Minister Don Polye. While acknowledging the research efforts of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), the Treasurer said development efforts on indigenous crops and other areas of high potential must be looked into seriously.

don_poyleSpeaking as Acting Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (HERST) at the 2013 Agricultural Innovations Show at NARI Bubia on June 27, Mr Polye said there are certain high potential areas that should be given serious consideration.

Some of the examples he mentioned include:
• domestication and commercialization of indigenous commodities such as galip, okari, ton, kava;
• enhancing genetic potential of important crops such as sweet potato, taro, yams, banana, aibika, pandanus, sago; and
• postharvest processing and preservation of many primary products for value addition.

Along with these, Polye also took note of work needed in the supply and value chain in linking farmers to markets, both at domestic and international levels.

The Treasurer was particularly impressed with the work done so far on galip nut, saying efforts must be made to ensure such indigenous nuts are traded as commodities in the world market given their comparative advantages.

Polye, who presided over the official program of the agricultural innovation show, was more positive about galip nut and the need to explore others that could have similar potentials. “Exploring and focusing on comparative and often absolute advantages are areas we need to be looking at closely.

In today’s world, unlike 20 years ago, we are presented with a number of wide ranging opportunities of finding niche markets for niche commodities for our agricultural commodities, including fruits and nuts, indigenous crops, food crops, and especially organic products.

One can look at the European market for such niche products, big emerging economies such as China and India for basic foods and food products; our neighboring countries in the Pacific region for foods and products; even bio-fuels, medicinal products, etc”, Polye told guests and visitors at the show.

In acknowledging NARI for taking the initiative, he told scientists and stakeholders to make further progress of what is being done with galip nut. He said such efforts are need in such areas, while giving his assurance that support will be made for the development of galip in the 2014 budget.

“As Treasurer of the nation, I clearly see my role not only in allocating funds to priority service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure and law and order but also in making sure that necessary funds are invested in renewable resources sectors such as agriculture, especially in innovative agriculture. So that rural and agricultural communities, especially smallholders are participating in creating wealth and getting benefited from such wealth today and tomorrow.

This is how we should be able to assure sustainable development in PNG”, Polye said. “I have seen the impressive performance of NARI over the years, during 2005-06 as Minister responsible for HERST and since in various capacities. They have performed extremely well in terms of their delivery through improved technologies. I understand NARI has made available some 27 such technologies that are currently helping our farmers.

Today, we have witnessed two such additions. I have seen this capacity is continuously developing. Commissioning of the biotechnology centre today is yet another example”.

Polye stressed the need for PNG to develop innovations and rise above the odds and be a force in the value chain of agricultural production at international level and commodities such as galip have a way out for PNG given their vast advantages.

Galip nut domestication and commercialization is one of the three projects NARI has made a commitment to deliver through the performance agreement with government early this year. Work is progressing to meet this commitment.

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