PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 10) - The Papua New Guinea National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) yesterday released to farmers a new formula for fighting the taro beetle.

Taro beetle has been responsible for wiping out the entire taro export industry in Samoa and Fiji in recent years.

These two countries export a lot of taro to the lucrative New Zealand market, which is home to thousands of Samoans, Tongans and other Pacific islanders.

Taro, is well known, as a staple crop of the Pacific islands people including Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea taro has also been adversely affected by this insect and it is a great breakthrough for us that our scientists at NARI have now found the right medicine to wipe out this dangerous pest.

Having now found the best control for the taro beetle, NARI and the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, and all other relevant government agencies should work towards helping farmers to grow taro for export.

We are the biggest of all the Pacific island countries and we have the land mass and the capacity and capability to produce tons of taro and other crops for export to both Australia and New Zealand.

The market is at our doorstep. We should take full advantage of these markets to assist our village growers earn a cash income for themselves.

There is money in taro just as there is money in coffee and cocoa or copra.

Our people have been growing taro for many, many years and are capable of growing it for export. All they need is expert advice and support.

NARI has developed new varieties of taro that withstand the beetle and other diseases. It is now time to focus on the export market.

The Government recently launched its PGK100 million [US$35 million] national agricultural development plan. That plan should be the basis for developing taro and our other staple crops into exportable commodities.

Over the last 10 years NARI has responded well to the nation’s call for more scientific research on agriculture. On going research is the key to improving the quality of our traditional crops and that is where the work being done by NARI is critical to the future of agriculture in PNG.

Agriculture is the backbone of the PNG economy -- every politician loves to say that. But, the key to ensuring agriculture plays its leading role in the nation’s economy is to consistently fund ongoing and new research.

Scientific research must be at the forefront of all our efforts to improve the quality of our crops and the political will in ensuring this is extremely critical.

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