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By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Feb. 25) - Hundreds of vanilla farmers in East Sepik province in Papua New Guinea are flocking into Wewak in truckloads to quickly sell their beans for the best value amid reports of plummeting prices.

Vanilla prices for premium quality had dropped from K750 to about K560 in recent days and are still dropping.

The news of the drop in prices has set off a panic in all the vanilla-growing areas of Maprik, Wosera, Drekikir, Yangoru and Kubalia which farmers rushing their beans to Wewak to buyers like Papindo, Agmark, Leong Brothers and Allan Bird.

Some buyers have stopped accepting beans at some point, creating long queues of sellers outside selling points from morning till afternoon yesterday. 

The ESP Agriculture Division, with the help of commerce advisor Elizabeth Kaprangi, will be in Maprik on Friday to discuss the possibility of forming a vanilla growers association to help with improvement of quality.

Mrs Kaprangi said the current drop in prices could be related to poor quality of beans.

"We have to maintain quality otherwise we will lose our markets overseas," Mrs Kaprangi told The National yesterday.

Mr Bird said one or two exporters that went out and purchased beans indiscriminately without due regard to quality had forced the American buyers to refuse acceptance of PNG vanilla after a 10-tonne shipment was found to be of very poor quality and rejected.

He said about 60 tonnes of PNG vanilla have been stockpiled in Indonesia by one PNG exporter for the American markets but is unable to off-load at the premium price. 

The American importer, according to Mr Bird, still prefers the Madagascan beans at more than US$400 per kilogram (K1200), which has caused the sudden adverse impact on prices of PNG vanilla.

February 25, 2004

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