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Smallholder farmers to drive rice industry in PNG

Trukai Industries Rice Development Manager Humphrey Saese believes our smallholder farmers can drive the local rice industry to attain a status alongside PNG’s most renowned farming crops.

PNG is the world's leading producer of sustainable palm oil and our coffee is highly popular in the US and other markets worldwide, while cacao from Morobe Province has been sought from overseas to produce premium specialty chocolate.

Mr Saese believes home-grown rice can over time evolve its own reputation and contribution to wide-reaching employment and the economy.

“PNG has achieved so much despite barely scratching the surface of our potential as an agricultural nation. From sector to sector, it is impossible not to be inspired to raise the bar on the way you do things and what quality of crop you produce. Our rice industry is no different,” Mr Saese explained.

“But the backbone of our success in all agriculture sectors depends on the progress of our smallholder farmers in PNG. Our smallholder growers are by far the largest group of agriculture producers in the country.  Through a nucleus out-grower system, farmers grow a significant volume of crops for the current established agri-based industries such as oil palm, coffee, cocoa and others.”

Ideally this where the bright future of commercial rice farming in PNG resides, he added.

“With the right training and infrastructural support to surround them, more of our farmers will be empowered with the necessary skills in farming and management to grow rice on their own. But by working alongside established commercial partners they have a guaranteed access to markets.

“Our company is currently undertaking significant upfront investment setting up the framework for our smallholder farmers to succeed, but in future our focus is likely to centre more on processing and the infrastructures required to cater for increased volumes produced by growers.”

Trukai Industries has engaged with number of growers and cooperatives across PNG to pilot test concepts under their Rice Development Pilot Concept. They have successfully advanced farmers in the Markham from a pilot stage now to a commercial stage.

“Apart from the current proposal of securing 500-plus smallholder rice farmers to work with around the UMI area, we are working with farmers in lower Markham valley in the Huon and Nawaeb district,” he explained.

“One such farmer is Jerry Bambe, with whom we signed a Rice Purchasing and Development Agreement(RPDA) to grow rice on his land. Jerry adds to the growing number farmers, land owners and private local businesses along the Markham valley and PNG who are registering their interest to partner with Trukai in expanding local rice production in the country.”

PHOTO: Jerry Bambe (centre) signing the Rice Purchasing and Development Agreement(RPDA) with Trukai Industries. Trukai Agriculture  Manager Jarrod Pirie is on the left, on the right is Pastor John Garu
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