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By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 1) -- East Sepik province is the leading vanilla producing province in Papua New Guinea, according Spice Industry Board (SIB) chief executive officer Michael Waisime.

Waisime said over 77 tons of cured vanilla beans worth K80 million (US$25 million) were exported from the province last year..

He said the price for cured vanilla beans was then K600-K700 (US$185-$215) per kilogram (2.2 pounds).

"This year, the price had dropped drastically from K600/kg to about K300/kg," said Waisime.

He was speaking during a vanilla quality certification workshop in Maprik last week where 856 farmers were awarded certificates.

Waisime said both East Sepik provincial government and the national government are taking immediate remedial steps to try and assist the growers and exporters improve vanilla quality.

He added the East Sepik provincial DAL and the SIB are working together to implement a major vanilla quality assurance program.

He said this would involve carrying out a massive quality awareness exercise on vanilla husbandry and curing that would cover all districts, LLG’s, wards and villages in the province.

Waisime added the provincial government and the board have allocated K10,000 each for DAL officers to conduct workshops in villages.

He said exporters in Wewak and Maprik have also contributed K22,000 in both cash and kind for the purpose.

The provincial DAL advisor Benjamin Sani said the training program would continue to assist farmers in improving the vanilla quality and enable them to enjoy higher price for the produce.

"The problem is not price, it is only quality. Once quality improves, we can compete against Madagascar, Indonesia or Mexico in the world markets," said Sani.

"Ours is organically grown without fertilizers or chemicals. There is no short cut," he said.

Waisime said the SIB would still collect the export levy for the board to continue the quality assurance program.

Nilai Nongi of Maprik Vanilla Exports, a pioneer vanilla farmer and buyer in Maprik presented a petition to SIB on behalf of farmers to support the K10 per kg export levy.

July 1, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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