PNG URGED TO REVIVE RUBBER EXPORTS

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 20) - With adequate funding support, Papua New Guinea could double its rubber production, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The importance of the rubber industry should be recognized and more funds injected into reviving rundown rubber blocks and smallholder rubber blocks, the department's secretary for corporate services, Philip Pondikou, told the joint Consultative Workshop last week.

Mr Pondikou said rubber was one of the main tree crops that could play a key role in the government's export driven strategy.

He outlined key strategic interventions including rehabilitation of existing rubber areas to encourage greater output to increase natural rubber production; and to expand smallholder rubber blocks to a minimum planting of 3 ha.

"An effective rubber collection and buying service at village level needs to be set up, through encouraging private marketing arrangements," he said.

He said PNG's rubber industry productivity was well below expected standards and action should be taken to revitalize the industry.

He said village and settlement trees were not being tapped, which means that farmers should be equipped with the necessary tools to tap every rubber tree on their blocks to maximize natural rubber production.

Mr Pondikou pointed out that out of the total 18,230 ha with existing rubber trees only 5,000 to 6,000 ha contributes to production.

The major constraints hampering rubber are poor roads, ineffective extension services, and lack of marketing outlets, poor training of farmers and lack of financial support for purchase of rubber equipment.

In the past 10 years, there has been no new planting in the seven rubber growing provinces with the exception of the Western Province.

During that period, PNG exported a total of 53,374 tons of rubber valued at K81.9 million (US$25.3 million).

Mr Pondikou told the workshop that the current potential to double production is real. There are sufficient rubber trees in existence and these trees are not effectively tapped and managed.

PNG has the potential to increase its total tonnage to 45,000 by year 2007.

November 21, 2003

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