Report: Agriculture is still key sector
Home to a remarkable amount of biodiversity, rich volcanic soil, bountiful waterways and a moist tropical climate, Papua New Guinea possesses all the elements to fashion itself into a thriving agricultural exporter.
These native assets have supplied the basic natural building blocks providing nourishment to the country’s population throughout history, and more recently to the agri-business industry for exporting cash crops such as coffee, tea, cocoa, spices, copra, rubber and palm oil.
Up until the decline in commodity prices and completion of the PNG liquefied natural gas project in 2014, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector was the largest contributor to the economy and accounted for more than one-fifth of the country’s gross value added as recently as 2013.
Given this abundance of naturally occurring inputs along with a substantial labour pool already well versed in agriculture cultivation, the only stumbling blocks standing in the way of a robust agro-industry are the means to increase efficiencies throughout the value chain to make production and distribution more competitive.
Weathering the Storm After an encouraging period of growth up to 2013, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector has been more recently negatively impacted by low commodity prices, old-aged trees, crop diseases, unfavourable weather conditions and poor market infrastructure.
As a result, the industry was projected to grow at a pedestrian 2.1 per cent rate in 2015, according to the National Budget 2016, a downgrade from earlier government estimates of 3.2 per cent and the 2015 national budget estimate of 3.6 per cent.
The expected 2015 growth rate represents just one-quarter of the average annual growth in industry output from 2007 to 2013.
The downgrade is due to lower-than anticipated production of key export crops which more than offset a higher palm oil production mainly coming from the newly planted areas.
The ongoing weakness of international commodity prices has also impacted the sector, particularly in coffee, cocoa and copra production, given that these commodities are mostly produced by highly price sensitive smallholders.
Another contributing factor to the 2015 downgrade is the adverse effect of a prolonged drought that devastated food crops and export commodities throughout 2015 and into early 2016, forcing the government to provide relief assistance in affected areas.
The full extent of the drought on the export commodities is not expected to be realised in the 2016 harvest.
This rough patch of the sector is an extension of a downturn first seen in 2014 when the output of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector as a measure of nominal GDP declined from K13.21bn ($4.5bn) in 2013 to K10.18bn ($3.5bn) the following year.
Prior to the 2014 drop-off, the sector had experienced steady growth from K7.56bn ($2.6bn) in 2007 to its peak in 2013, growing at an average rate of 8.4 per cent over the seven-year period.
Exports like potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, garden vegetables, sugar cane chicken, pig meat earns more money on the international market than cocoa, coffee and copra
Below is a table showing the 30 most valuable crops and livestock in the world.
*List of the most valuable crops and livestock products.
Agriculture is life, non-renewable resources like oil and gas do not guarantee you life but life is sustained through food produced on the land
It does not only sustain life but is also a form of income that benefits the community economically and contributes to improving living standards if managed well.
If we do not grow food today and sow in our land, what will the future generation benefit from?
Life is sustained through agriculture and the Government must protect vital agricultural resources and boost the industry to sustain our future generations.