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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 3, 2001 - Papua New Guinea Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---A proposal by the Papua New Guinea Highlands governors to set up a coffee bank has received support from growers in the Eastern Highlands.

An outspoken community leader and coffee grower from Masilakiufa village near Goroka, Mark Gozapao, said the establishment of such a bank would go a long way in helping smallholder coffee growers.

He said instead of wasting time going to commercial banks, which most times turn a deaf ear to growers because of the lack of collateral or security required to get loans, the proposed bank would be more accessible.

"It is very difficult for small coffee block holders to obtain loans from commercial banks to enhance coffee production. Due to tougher conditions imposed by banks, small coffee farmers are scared off," Mr. Gozapao said.

One of the features of the proposed bank would be flexible regulations on lending as compared to that of commercial banks.

The governors proposed the idea during the recent coffee festival in Goroka.

Mr. Gozapao said, with flexible regulations, growers would be motivated to grow more coffee and boost production as a result.

Another reason cited for the decline in the production of coffee was the exorbitant prices of weedicides and pesticides.

"Many coffee plantations and plots have now turned into thick bushes because prices of chemicals such as Gramoxone and Round Ups, which should be used to kill weeds, have risen to (a) level where farmers cannot afford them. The only possibility remaining is for the government to subsidies the prices," he added.

Mr. Gozapao called on the Coffee Industry Corporation and the Department of Agriculture o broaden their extension services in which growers in rural areas are educated on basics about the crop.

Currently, growers from remote areas like Obura-Wonenara in the Eastern Highlands and Karamui in Simbu are finding it difficult to bring their crop into town to sell.

Those places can only be accessed by light plane. Because of a rise in airfares, growers are finding it almost impossible to fly their high quality organic coffee into places where there is a market.

Organic coffee or coffee grown without the use of manufactured fertilizers and pesticides has a high demand on the world market.

Mr. Gozapao called on the government to assist growers in those areas by coming up with a strategy to subsidize airfares or excess baggage fees charged by the third level airlines.

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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