PNG PRODUCE FARMER WANTS AIR FREIGHT SUBSIDY

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$2.2 million yearly, Mt. Hagen to Port Moresby

By David Muri PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 15, 2011) – A major fresh vegetable supplier from the Highlands has revealed that it is paying around PGK5 million [US$2.2 million] annually on airfreight for shipment of fresh products from Mt Hagen to Port Moresby.

The firm wants these charges to be subsidised by appropriate authorities if the small-scale farming industry is to survive and meet the growing demand of local markets like Port Moresby resource projects and institutions.

For the Mt Hagen-based fresh vegetable trader, Wisky Fresh Limited; airfreight has remained an impediment in running its operations for many years.

Managing director, Berry Maip has asked the Department of Agriculture, through its agencies like National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) and Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) to intervene and look into the matter if the demand for the fresh food market is to be sustained.

Mr Maip said transport costs have consumed a large portion of his company’s running costs over the years.

He pleaded with the government to subsidise the freight costs for the interest of hardworking producers and consumers.

Mr Maip said according to his records, Wisky Fresh is paying between K3 million to K5 million to Air Niugini and around K700,000 annually to Bismarck Shipping on freight costs annually. Apart from these, he is also meeting hefty costs of electricity for several cooling systems.

He said high costs of locally-produced fruits and vegetables in the supermarket shelves are direct results of skyrocketing freight costs imposed by airlines and shipping agents.

He said trucking firms have also increased their rates due to the tear and wear of the Highlands Highway and the ever-increasing fuel prices.

Maip said Wisky Fresh is the only fresh vegetable agent still open and operating in Mt Hagen which directly deals with the rural farmers. He added that institutions like FPDA should come on board with funding and expertise to promote the industry.

Mr Maip said he has taken over the job of FPDA to train farmers, lend them seedling and pesticides, and provide them markets by buying their vegetables at healthy rates.

"I do not know why the government has established agencies like NARI and FPDA at the first place. Are they here to serve small-scale village-based farmers with expertise and markets for their products?" he asked.

These costs, the dealer said, were being directly met by consumers in the city, who are already hit by high costs of living.

Mr Maip said for his company to constantly supply quality produce, the government needed to intervene and subsidise some of its operational costs. He said prices of locally produced vegetables on the supermarket shelves in Port Moresby could be reduced if transportation costs were minimised.

He said other known suppliers like Alele Fresh Produce, Vegmark and FPDA could no longer survive in this trade because of various reasons.

Mr Maip said these organisations used to supply the fresh produce market but have since ceased their operations, thus, leaving his company the only major player in industry that is directly benefitting the rural people.

Mr Maip said he has the capacity to meet the city’s growing demand but needed government support to expand his business.

 

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