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PNG Government to Support Real Entrepreneurs, Not Paper Farmers, says Basil

Minister for National Planning Hon Samuel H Basil MP has stated emphatically that the Marape-Steven Government will not fund “paper farmers” but support Micro Small Medium (MSMEs) Enterprises already in business in the 2020 Budget.
Minister Basil said this to coconut MSMEs in at a dinner meeting in Grand Papua Hotel, Port Moresby last night, re-affirming his comment made at the inaugural National Coconut Festival from September 26-28.

His comments also follow a weekend trip from Mount Hagen to Lae in which he noted the Highlands Roads as well as visited the JNPK Coffee factory in Lufa accompanied by a small team including the National Planning and Monitoring Deputy Secretary Mr Michael Kumun.

“The focus of the current Government in the medium term is in the economic sector which includes the extractive industries, and the renewable industries – agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism and the promotion of SMEs,” said Minister Basil.

“In agriculture, the biggest challenge for a long time is not growing the cash crops. It is the processing, transportation and access to markets – domestic and global.”

“Be assured, we are going to do things differently. Marape-Steven Government will raise the Agriculture Budget – and we will fund those Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises who are already in the farming and downstream processing business. We are not going to entertain paper farmers who come out of the wood works when funding is available,” he said, referring to the controversial National Agriculture Development Program funding usage previously based on proposals – some of whom were from people residing in urban centres.

“I want to assure coffee farmers and factory owners, coconut SMEs, those involved in cocoa farming that the Marape-Steven Government’s commitment is to support such agriculture and SME self-starters and actual hands-on doers rather than paper farmers and SMEs,” said Mr Basil, follows the coconut festival in Port Moresby and his recent Highlands Highway tour and visit to selected coffee production sites including JNPK Coffee in Lufa.

The agriculture sector currently contributes around 26 per cent to PNG’s national GDP. Coffee, cocoa, coconut, palm oil, rubber and tea are PNG’s major exports, contributing K7.2 billion in export revenue between 2013 and 2016.

The industry has been plagued by fluctuating world prices, rising labor and overhead costs, poor management and land tenure issues. These are further compounded by the rapid population growth, food security, climate change and natural disasters which pose a possible long-term threat of resource scarcity related to food supply and consumption.

“These could affect income streams for 80% of the country’s population,” Mr Basil said, while highlightingthat any contribution to agriculture would also promote the other sub sectors such as tourism, the promotion of SME through the provision of credit facilities, as well as promoting investments in key enablers such as infrastructure, education, health and law and order.

Mr Basil added: “Given the potential that exists within the sector for improving quality and increasing quantity of agricultural produce, the focus of the sector in the medium term are to:
• Rehabilitate run-down plantations which should be prudently operated to boost export volumes;
• Establish strong government and administration systems with clear policy guidelines to drive the sector forward;
• Develop biosecurity strategies; and,
• Address major impediments to the growth of the sector.”

These, he added, can be achieved through:
• partnerships with the private sector,
• providing legislative and policy frameworks,
• establishing a central data center to coordinate and track progress of the sector for future planning,
• promote research and development for addressing food security issues; and
• improving the quality and yield of food crops and major export commodities such as coconut.

Mr Basil said the Marape-Steven Government wants to see a shift in the PNG economy from over-reliance on extractive industries to generate wealth and grow the economy as it is “an enclaved and unsustainable industry.

“In order to promote sustainable economic growth, there is now a renewed focus in agriculture where 80 per cent of PNG’s population is actively participating and involved,” he said.
Press Release

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