Caption: Potato farmers in the Western Highlands province admiring tubers of some promising potato varieties resistant to potato late blight.
Potatoes are growing very well in the Northern (Oro) province, according to outspoken farmer Graeme Ross.
Mr Ross, who runs Alele Farm Fresh Produce, said that potatoes were flourishing in the Afore area where he was carrying out a project.
Potatoes can also be grown in Kokoda to feed the increasing number of trekkers walking the wartime Kokoda Trail as well as supply Popondetta and other centres.
“We’re out in the bush doing a project on growing potatoes with no chemicals added,” he said.
“We’re being 150% successful.
“Seeds are leaping out of the ground.”
“A count has shown to us that Kokoda would very much like to produce potatoes for Popondetta but farmers need training on how to grow potatoes.
“We’re very excited.’
Mr Ross, however, re-iterated his earlier calls for a total ban on all potatoes imported from Australia for fear of bringing in new diseases.
“We are gravely concerned about potato cyst nematode in Australia, which will come in when potatoes are brought into the supermarkets,” he said.
“Fresh Produce Development Corporation general manager, Ambassador Aiwa Olmi, also wants a total ban on all potatoes coming into the country due to the threat of diseases being introduced.”
Papua New Guinea’s K100 million potato industry faces threats from new diseases which can be far more destructive than potato late blight, according to Mr Ross.
“The industry has been threatened since 2003 by over four major diseases, and a new threat is looming on the Australian supply chain,” he said.
“Major diseases are leaf roll virus, bacteria wilt, black lake and a new virus that the government hasn’t identified.
“These diseases are uncontrollable with chemicals.
“If introduced into new soil, the soil can be unproductive for up to 10 years.
“Potato late blight is totally controllable with chemicals and farmer training.
“A major new threat not clearly reported by Australian quarantine has been discovered in Australia and distributed by a certified seed grower in Victoria.
“The distribution of disease seeds in Australia now threatens ware or eating potatoes.
“It is now a high risk importing from Australian into Papua New Guinea.
“The industry is demanding total protection from this potato disease outbreak in Australia.
“Major government agencies support a total ban on ware potatoes coming from Australia.
“To date, Trade & Industry and quarantine have not responded to this threat,
“How can Papua New Guinea survive without potatoes?
“We need potatoes in Papua New Guinea.”