Thursday, 5 May 2016

New video identifies insights into developing PNG’s fresh vegetable supply chains

A project video has been released about ACIAR’s project SMCN/2008/008 Increasing vegetable production in Central Province for Port Moresby Markets. This project is led by a team from the University of Tasmania with members from the National Institute of Agricultural Research (NARI) and the Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA). The video highlights the potential contribution to poverty alleviation of these projects and the challenges faced by working in this highly diverse country.

Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) agriculture involves 86% of PNG’s population. This project addressed some of the major problems in PNG’s vegetable growing system: production problems associated with appropriate varieties, soil management and irrigation, the lack of coordination and targeted marketing in chains, poor quality, high levels of waste and exploitation of growers. Specifically it aimed to develop coordinated; formalised supply chains from Central Province into supermarkets and hotels in the capital Port Moresby; as well as supply the huge influx of foreign workers in the resources boom. It had a specific goal of improving the role of woman in PNG supply chains. This was the first such project in this province which has a very different culture compared to other major vegetable growing regions.

Soil Scientists visit village near Goroka. Photo: Laurie Bonney
The project was highly successful in identifying new vegetable varieties suited to low, medium and high altitudes and more appropriate methods for soil fertility management and low cost irrigation system. Using the latest in satellite Geographic Information Systems, it also identified for the first time detailed soil capability maps for the province, highlighting the abundance of high quality production land in the Rigo-Koiari District just an hour from Port Moresby.

The project was very successful in establishing a supply chain that engaged about 100 families in the Rigo-Koiari district into a leading supermarket chain in Port Moresby that doubled family incomes for 12 months; effectively raising them well above the poverty line. Unfortunately the supply arrangements eventually failed due to social instability.

The extensive training of partners and farmer participants also resulted in the establishment of two additional very successful supply chains, one involving women marketing vegetables and the other a very large chain with a turnover of nearly one million kina per annum managed by one of the local institutional partners of the project.

Lae retail market. Photo: Laurie Bonney
With the encouragement of the provincial government the project also attempted to establish a supply chain from Tapini in Goilala District, one of the most remote areas in PNG. The government was vitally interested in understanding the problems that would be faced in coordinating food supply from such a remote area. The project successfully conducted the first scientific trials in the region, undertook soil surveys and the first agricultural and value chain training the local people had ever received. However, extended tribal conflict eventually resulted in the abandonment of the chain development from this area.

Learnings focused on the need for attaining scale in production using appropriate low-input techniques, the fragility of social and business relationships, the need for adequate transport systems, collaboration and coordination of chains to targeted outlets.

By Laurie Bonney, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, University of Tasmania

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