RICE CAN BE PNG’S CROP OF THE FUTURE

Editorial

The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (, May 11, 2009) – Eastern Highlands farmer Apele Goso is 100% correct. Papua New Guinean rice farmers need rice mills, not another feasibility study.

He was, of course, referring to the K5 million [US$1.9 million] for rice feasibility studies announced last week by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

It is scandalous.

Rice was grown in the Finschhafen and Sialum areas of Morobe province since the 1940s. It was commercially farmed in the Bereina area, Central province, since the 1960s.

The Taiwanese Trade Mission has been here since 1978 and it has been, singularly, most successful in experimenting and growing various varieties of rice at Bubia outside Lae for years.

In Kandep, Enga province, rice and wheat have been grown quite successfully since the 1980s supported by the Chinese government.

It has been proven beyond doubt that rice can be grown in the Highlands and the lowlands of Papua New Guinea.

Grain types have been isolated and tested; which can be grown under wet and dry conditions.

Every part of the country, including Sir Michael’s East Sepik province, is growing rice today.

The only ponderous issue that has been before every administration and never been conclusively decided is whether or not rice farming could be done on a large commercial scale.

There, the question is more of technology and its affordability rather than whether or not we have the right soil types, the weather and the grain type.

So, the big question is: What is this feasibility study going to establish for PNG?

The offer of K5 million to a Filipino team might have been arranged during the Prime Minister’s visit in March to the Philippines where he visited the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos.

In any event, there exists an existing memorandum of agreement between Trukai Industries and the Government which is aimed at rice industry development, maize and peanut production and beef industry development.

There exist collaborative projects with the University of Technology and the National Agriculture Research Institute and Department of Agriculture and Livestock on rice production.

These organisations have been dealing with agricultural research in general and rice production for decades.

If there is any crying need for rice research and any new areas, these organisations ought to be conversant with those needs.

These are the organisations that need the funds to continue work that they have invested many millions of kina and tens of thousands of man hours on.

A new team would only be covering ground that has already been covered by the organisations operating in the country.

A new team would only be duplicating work that might already have been covered over the years.

There have been far too many feasibility studies and too little actual work being done; far too much money spent on studies and too little on projects.

Then there is the other point of Mr. Goso’s which calls for money to be put into buying mills, not for more research.

Rice growing has taken off in many parts of the country. Many households are today self-sufficient in rice production.

What many of these growers need is a central mill to process their rice.

Where there are mills, there is a cluster of rice growers who bring their produce for milling and then either pay cash or in kind with rice.

Through such a process, given that there is enough good rice mills in strategic locations around the country, rice communities can become self-sufficient in rice.

This would be an excellent crop to replace traditional staples such as sweet potato, banana and yams.

It is easy to store and for longer periods, so it is ideal in a disaster prone country like PNG.

It would give PNG food security.

And, as with all other crop farming in this country, small growers could produce sufficient if the quality were controlled, for other parts of the country that might not be able to grow rice and even for export markets rather than going for large scale rice farming.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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