PNG’S COCOA INDUSTRY BACK ON TRACK AFTER SCARE

Editorial

PNG’S COCOA INDUSTRY BACK ON TRACK AFTER SCARE

The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 18) – We welcome yesterday’s release of excellent news for Papua New Guinea.

The cocoa pod borer emergency response unit in East New Britain announced the lifting of the quarantine ban imposed to fight borer disease in the vital agricultural crop.

This marks an outstanding achievement for the committed people who have formed the team that has apparently brought the fight against the disease to this point.

Response unit co-ordinator Henry Turbarat made the announcement on Tuesday.

When the borer was identified only a few months ago, many of those involved in the agricultural sector, particularly cocoa growers and marketers, held their breath.

Cocoa, like any agricultural cash crop, is open to disease and opportunistic infections. Those infections can spread like wildfire and reduce the financial mainstay of an area to dust in a short space of time.

We need only look at the history of English potato growing in the Highlands to underline that fact. Once a booming village-oriented industry, the potato is still struggling to regain its once widespread acceptance in the region.

The Gazelle peninsula of East New Britain has long been internationally recognised as a provider of top quality cocoa.

That reputation has been maintained in recent decades with the planting of high yield hybrid cocoa that is immune to many diseases, produces mature cocoa quicker, and has become widespread in the Gazelle.

Cocoa has enjoyed prices ranging from the reasonable to the very good for many years, and it is no exaggeration to say that the crop in tandem with copra and other agricultural products, has long been the backbone of the islands region.

New Ireland, Bougainville, West New Britain and far-flung Manus also had every reason to fear the cocoa borer infestation.

All of the island region provinces harvest substantial cocoa crops; before the civil war on Bougainville, that province was the major PNG producer of cocoa, and production at many of the huge plantations that once grew and marketed the product still remains to be revived.

With the lifting of the ban comes the removal of the quarantine stations in the eradication area.

But Mr Turbarat also announced the retention of those quarantine checkpoints established at Tokua airport and at beachfronts and wharves in the Kokopo and Rabaul areas.

They are to be taken over to monitor the invasion and spread of Newcastle disease among chickens in the province. That’s the kind of co-operation that automatically used to take place within provinces and it is refreshing to see that it is once again happening.

It recalls the levels of co-operation common in provinces 25 years ago, where patrols would take place to specific destinations at least twice a year.

These patrols were normally supervised by district administration, and each of the provincial departments would have a representative on the patrol.

If the province was maritime, then a government workboat would take the patrol to its destination; for example, such patrols were common in New Ireland, where the patrol would leave Kavieng and journey to say, New Hanover.

The various department representatives would then pursue their department’s concerns in the area. On return, mini reports would be submitted to the provincial government administration outlining matters that needed action.

Costs were slashed in this way, with officers travelling together; the patrol members listened as much as they talked, and the concerns of the people were rapidly channelled back to provincial HQ for action.

The sensible flow-on of ENB facilities in the fight against agricultural and livestock pests could be expanded into a contemporary version of the co-operative provincial methods formerly used.

The ENB response, the use of the bank of expertise within the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, the speed of the operation and the support of DAL Minister Sasa Zibe all bode well for the agricultural sector.

The apparently successful battle against the cocoa pod borer infestation shows the achievable side of the Prime Minister’s Green Revolution announced at the beginning of his current term of office.

We trust that the new government to be elected in a few months will see the continuing value of implementing that initiative, and of stepping up levels of internal provincial co-operation to achieve best-practice results.

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