CHINESE HELP BOOST PNG MUSHROOM PRODUCTION

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By John Dau

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 12, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Continued financial support from the People's Republic of China will enable the people of Lufa, in Papua New Guinea's Eastern Highlands, to double the production of their mushroom farms.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Zhenyu and Minister for Planning and Monitoring Moi Avei, on behalf of the Papua New Guinea government yesterday signed an agreement in Port Moresby for a K 770,000 (US$ 231,000) grant to support the project for the next two years.

The Lufa Juncao Technology Project, which begun in 1997, is hi-tech, in-the-field biotechnology that utilizes wild grasses, such as elephant grass and straw, to cultivate mushrooms.

Mr. Zhao said: "The application of the technology has high value both in economic return and environmental protection." He said that under the guidance of Chinese experts, the local villagers take three weeks to harvest mushrooms.

Mr. Zhao said that three experts would be sent to help maintain the Lufa Juncao base, where they will provide mushroom production guidance and technical advice.

He said that an advanced training class on mushroom technology will be held in July and August of this year.

Mr. Zhao added that the Chinese side would also supply some instruments and equipment for the project’s mushroom technology laboratory.

He said that the project has brought to the local people not only an opportunity to earn money but also access to modern farming that PNG badly needs in its development.

Developer of the mushroom technology project, Professor Lin Zhan Xi from Fujian Agriculture University, said that the signing benefits another 600 households this year compared to the first 300 when it was introduced.

Prof Li said, "There will be another 1,000 households benefiting in 2002."

Prof Li was offered K 500 (US$ 150) per day to work in Australia but he refused because he wanted to help contribute to the development of PNG.

He said that he has helped households grow 10 different species and they have benefited from the project.

The technology makes it possible to use elephant grass for the cultivation of mushrooms, which can be eaten or used for medical treatments.

Prof Li said that the technology has done away with growing mushrooms on old tree trunks, which resulted in many trees being cut down.

Last year the government of China gave K 10 million (US$ 3,000,000) for structural adjustment programs, with K 5 million (US$ 1,500,000) for other projects. Another K 3.3 million (US$ 990,000) was given for economic and technical cooperation to the PNG government last week.

Mr. Moi Avei and Member of Parliament for Lufa Mathias Karani thanked the Chinese government for their continued support.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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