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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Nov. 2, 1999 – Post-Courier)---Papua New Guinea could end up being an exporter of beef, if a joint submission to the Cabinet is approved.

Agriculture and Livestock Minister Ted Diro said yesterday that the National Executive Council would be discussing a submission from his department and the Department of Trade and Industry to set up beef production in Vanimo in West Sepik Province.

Mr. Diro said that if the plan is approved, the project would be the first of its kind in the country.

The minister said the idea was to initially bring in 1,000 cattle from Queensland, Australia, fatten them up and butcher them for sale within Papua New Guinea and overseas.

Mr. Diro said markets had been identified in Indonesia and Japan.

He noted that the Quarantine division and the Cattlemen's Association of Morobe Province supported the idea.

The idea, he said, would be to create employment and reduce the country's reliance on overseas imports of beef.

The beef venture is one of several projects that the Department of Agriculture is looking at to bring agriculture to the forefront of development in line with the Government's shifting policy.

Mr. Diro said that previously attention was on the mining sector. However, he added, it was time to divert attention as there were problems in that sector.

The other crops that the department is looking at improving are vanilla farming as well as spices, rice, rubber and copra.



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 2, 1999)---The growth in agriculture exports over the last seven years has been disappointing and failed to match Papua New Guinea's population growth, Agriculture Minister Ted Diro said yesterday.

Mr. Diro said the real test of agriculture exports is volume, but he added, that is governed by world price movements and is beyond PNG's ability to control.

He said the most disappointing commodity export was cocoa, with production virtually stagnant between 1992 and 1998.

"In 1992, we exported 38,000 tons of cocoa,'' Mr. Diro said.

"In 1997, we exported exactly the same amount, while in 1998, the estimated exports fell to 26,000 tons.’’

Mr. Diro said the figures were disappointing considering the importance of the cocoa industry in coastal and island regions in PNG.

"Apart from 1998, when there was an estimated big lift in coffee exports, the period between 1992 and 1997 was virtually stagnant,'' he said.

"In the same period of time, the population grew by about 20 percent.

"A growing nation such as Papua New Guinea, with population growth between two and three percent a year, needs to boost its major agricultural exports by a consistently high level, certainly higher than the population growth,'' he said.

"While factors such as drought and frost intervened during some years, especially 1997, the overall trend is nowhere near strong enough.’’

Mr. Diro said the trend needed to be measured against the country's weak performance in domestic food production, which had increased by just one percent a year, or less than half the population's growth rate.

He said the commercial bank loans outstanding for agriculture had shown an alarming downward trend in recent years, and it was a worrying sign for the future.

"What these figures demonstrate is that all stakeholders in our agricultural industries -- from governments to growers and export companies -- face a mammoth task in re-building our agricultural sector.’’

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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