12 Jun 2013

Plans afoot to raise coffee production in PNG

5:36 pm on 12 June 2013

Papua New Guinea's peak coffee industry body, the Coffee Industry Corporation, has a series of plans to try and raise production and increase returns for farmers.

The industry has long been vital in PNG, but has lost some of its lustre in recent times with a number of producers dropping out of the industry.

But it the Coffee Industry Corporation wants to see better returns and higher production and has a series of plans to try and achieve this.

The CIC's acting chief executive, Anton Benjamin, explained to Don Wiseman.

ANTON BENJAMIN: We hope that by working with our farmers in the districts, particularly, and establish this with farmers, we can at least make an impact. And it's true that we're also looking at establishing small nurseries, making sure that we have quality coffee facilities available for farmers who come under this particular programme. The other programme that we currently have on board is support by the World Bank - what we call the Productive Partnerships project. That's also an initative by the government with support from the World Bank, to support small owners to improve their quality. And I think quality starts at the farm level, basically making sure that the farmer does the right thing. And from there on making sure that you get a good yield, and after that, what happens from the farm through the work factory and then how it's handled, post-harvest handling procedures.

DON WISEMAN: That is a critical thing in PNG, isn't it? Because of the poor roads and things like this, it takes forever, often, for a farmer to get his few sacks through to the factory. And you need to be able to speed that process up if you're going to get the best quality.

AB: That's right. Exactly. For our farmers in the remote areas we have what we call the freight surety programme. That's also an initiative by government to basically help farmers in the most remote parts of the country. (Laughs) As you know, PNG is very rough and in those places we do not have access roads. So we have this programme which supports small airline companies to go into the most remote parts of the country where coffee is grown and air-lift them back to the markets. What we do is we have a funding pact under this programme which supports weekly flights for the air freight. So this company, when they do their normal round, they go to the rural area. Also, when they're coming back to the town they're bringing coffee. So that programme that is very effective, but the problem is in the most remote parts lack of access has resulted very poor-quality coffee. So whilst we get good organic coffee coming from those remote areas, quality is also very low. So we are making efforts to address those areas, as well, in the remote parts.

DW: At the factory, you get the lower-quality material, then that's downgraded so it gets a lower price.

AB: Exactly. It gets a lower price. The problem we have is that because they're sort of isolated, compared to people along the roadside who get good prices, the industry is looking at... Yesterday we had a board meeting and we discussed ways which we could compensate our farmers in those remote areas by providing subsidies. So that will also encourage them to make sure they produce good-quality coffee.