PNG COFFEE ROTS FOR LACK OF TRANSPORT

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 6) - Tons of organically-grown arabica coffee are rotting in the remote Managalas Plateau of Northern Province because of the unavailability of transport.

Currently, there are about 5,000 bags (50kg each) of dried coffee beans (parchments) from the last two seasons that are rotting away in village houses. At current coffee price, that amounts to K550,000.

Indications are that this year’s harvest is likely to go to waste too.

The story is the same for the 15,000 people who still live in traditional villages spread across some 400,000 hectares of fertile alpine country in the Sibium Mountain Ranges - just where the Owen Stanley Range begins to descend into the back of Central and Milne Bay provinces.

Dea villagers John Biyuma and Henington Arese each have 30 and 36 bags of dried coffee respectively, stored away in their houses. They are praying for transportation to take them to sell at the nearest depot.

"Mipela less na i no kisim coffee bilong 2004 na ol sting pinis (We gave up on the 2004 crop and it has rotted already)," Mr Biyuma said in Tok Pisin.

Huon-Gulf MP Sasa Zibe, visiting the area over the weekend, could not help but feel sorry for the people at the sight of coffee bags rotting under each village house.

"What a waste, what a waste..." was all he could utter.

He later stressed that the National Government should put its export-driven strategy into action by helping these people transport their coffee to markets.

The current price of arabica parchment is K2.20 per kg for Class 1 and K1.97 per kg for Class 2.

Mr Zibe said he would raise the matter with the Agriculture Minister Mathew Siune on behalf of the people of Managalas Plateau.

The road access from Popondetta to Ioma and especially onto Itokama has for all practical purposes disappeared.

The World Bank has approved K3 million for the sealing of Oro Bay - Afore Road and for upgrading to all-weather road, the next 36 km portion to Itokama. However, that funding is under threat because the Oro provincial government has yet to put up K300, 000 as its counterpart funding.

Currently, Airlines PNG operates 30-minute weekly twin-otter flights out of Port Moresby to Itokama airstrip but excess weight is charged at K3.15 per kg and only 1,700kg load permitted on each flight.

July 6, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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