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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Sept. 14) – Poor roads and high shipping costs have led to a sharp decline in agricultural production in coastal areas of Papua New Guinea.

Growers say that the deterioration of road systems in East Sepik province contributed greatly to the decline in coffee production, from over 4,000 tons in the early 1990s to a mere 200 tons in 2003.

David Loh, Executive Director of the PNG Growers’ Association, said that while the decline in production was partly due to low prices, the major damage was caused by the poor state of roads.

Speaking at the national development forum, Mr Loh said the decline in the road system and virtual lack of roads in many coastal regions had forced the people to depend solely on sea transport to deliver their produce.

He said for more than 15 years, the agricultural industry has been drawing attention to the high cost and low frequency of coastal shipping, but no action was taken.

"Isolated communities are suffering and have mostly ceased production of agricultural produce because of prohibitive costs," said Mr Loh.

The crumbling state of coastal wharfs and ports in the country has further aggravated the problem, he said.

Shipping from outer ports to main ports for export attracts high handling charges at either and, and that compounds to the problem.

"The high cost of petrol to power banana boats for transporting produce to market makes it uneconomical in the case of copra which is charged by the bag, Loh said. "And it’s very expensive in the case of cocoa as shipping operators charge a percentage of the cocoa value."

He said the situation has not changed over the last five national development forums and "unless this government can show us today they are genuinely serious about their catch cry of export-driven recovery and guarantee this recovery, our green revolution will not flourish".

September 15, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/



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