Agriculture Value Chain : The Missing Links


How lucrative and sustainable is commercial farming in Papua New Guinea? The answer to this lies in understanding the challenges in the agriculture sector – ranging from knowledge gaps to inadequate infrastructure to transportation costs to market access.

While agriculture provides livelihood to 85% of PNG’s population and contributes to 30% of the country’s GDP, there has been little development in terms of support services for the sector to truly grow. Ironically, PNG imports huge quantities of food to meet its domestic food requirement, worth more than a whopping K1 billion a year. But with the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting international supply chain, it poses an opportunity for PNG to promote self-sufficiency through local production.

With the aim of celebrating local fresh produce, the Eat Smart Campaign documents the journey of food, from farm to shelf to plate by also highlighting the gaps in the agriculture supply chain.

For third-generation farmer Warren in Tahira, lack of information is one of the biggest obstacles. Seeds sold locally are imported and often do not match the climatic and soil conditions present here. “We need to get the basics right before talking about exporting our produce.”

In Markham Valley, Ruddy Artango speaks about the failure of the agriculture system. “Policies are great but is it trickling down to the farmers on the ground? Can a farmer even make the cut for a small loan?”

A long-standing challenge is land ownership and usage. Max, a farmer from Goilala tills Koairi land in Brown River. He leads a farming community that pays a monthly “rental” to customary land-owners. Drawing attention to potential agriculture land sitting idle, he speaks of how farming can empower villages by creating employment.

In East New Britain, Fisherman Chris explains the issues with over-fishing, which is turning the rich bay near the volcano barren. Competing with trawlers is impossible for the small fishermen, who fish only as much as is required.

Willie, an enterprising farmer on 14-mile Highway, has been a catalyst for change in his community by reviving agriculture. The self-taught farmer brought electricity and water to the village. “Take Back PNG isn’t about waiting for things to happen or for Government to give handouts. What can we do as citizens?”

In Rigo, banana farmer Gabi has to battle the growing vagaries of nature. “You have to negotiate with the environment and plan crop cycles. A flood or a drought and all our hard-work could be down the drain.” The lack of viable safety nets and institutional initiatives – agri-based insurance products and disaster packages – are a part of the ground realities in rural areas.

Transportation remains a huge operational expense for visually impaired farmer Lucas near Hula in Central Province. In order to reach the highway, he needs to walk muddy tracks, with sacksful of coconuts. “There needs to be better road connectivity between the rural parts of the country and urban areas where retailers are.”

Reducing these inefficiencies can boost productivity in the agriculture sector, and strengthen local economies. Despite growing demands for local produce, the agriculture supply chain remain at a nascent stage. The government needs to promote a value chain approach working in partnership with the farming community, traders, transporters, wholesalers, retailers and agri-businesses in the food industry to facilitate and support the establishment of efficient, viable and cost-effective mechanisms.

Live Instagram Feed