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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 15, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Palm oil continues as Papua New Guinea's top agricultural export commodity, according to new figures from the Bank of Papua New Guinea.

For the first time on record palm oil exports last year overtook coffee with the former earning the country K 306.6 million (US$ 92,899,800) versus K 294.8 million (US$ 89,324,400) for coffee.

Coffee exports continued their dismal performance in the first quarter of the year as international prices plummeted to ten year lows, data released by the Bank of Papua New Guinea showed. Coffee exports fell to K 26.2 million US$ 7,938,600) in the March quarter compared with K 56 million (US$ 16,968,000) in the same period last year.

Palm oil exports, which also experienced slumping prices during the quarter, totaled K 54.9 million (US$ 16,634,700). This is just slightly below the K 55.1 million (US$ 16,695,300) figure for the March quarter last year but significantly lower than the K 97.9 million (US$ 29,663,700) export income earned in the March quarter of 1999.

The Central Bank, in its March quarter economic bulletin, said all agricultural export commodity prices declined in the March quarter with the exception of cocoa and tea.

It said: "Coffee prices declined by 31.8 percent, copra by 43 percent, copra oil by 47.9 percent, rubber by 7.3 percent and palm oil by 20.6 percent. The export price of logs declined by 5.8 percent to K 211 (US$ 63.933) per cubic meter.

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

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