PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 23) – The newly merged Cocoa/ Coconut Institute will focus on improving extension services to cocoa and coconut growers throughout the country.

Chairman Ken Fairweather said the institute would start recruiting young men and women to assist growers improve production and overcome problems such as diseases and pests.

"There is an urgent need to lift the participation rate in the cocoa and coconut industries and the employment of young men and women as extension officers will be aimed at achieving that goal," Mr Fairweather said.

"Extension officers will be attached to seed gardens and nursery projects so they can ensure growers get adequate seeds and support services."

He said research services would be revitalized as well to ensure they were better focused on the real needs of the growers and the cocoa and coconut industries.

The future of the coconut industry depends on the use of coconuts for food and oil production and when the world demand for coconut continued to decline, PNG needed to adjust to the reality that coconut oil would be the way in the future, he said.

"Support for the development of village-based coconut-based industries will be a priority and cocoa research will particularly focus on continuing to boost productivity," he said.

He said the institute would meet with donor agencies and countries to rebuild their confidence in the institute’s capacity to implement programs efficiently.

"Donor country and agency funds for extension services and research work have dried up due to poor performance in implementing programs or the completion of the funded projects," Mr Fairweather said.

"While we must generate more funding from our own industries for research and extension programs, appropriate aid funding is still needed."

He said the staff reduction program to be undertaken soon, would be carried out properly and all staff retrenched or not able to be re-employed would be paid out all their entitlements.

The new board will also report regularly to the National Government so that everything they do would be done transparently.

September 23, 2003

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