DAL senior officers Francis Daink (dark glasses) and Mika Andrew (right) chat with a cocoa farmer at the Pasi resource centre near Vanimo where the provincial administration is distributing cocoa seedlings to farmers
DAL and provincial administration officials inspect a cocoa nursery block at Pasi farming station near Vanimo
By SOLDIER BURUKA of DAL
Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock Anton Benjamin has called on stakeholders to make a more concerted effort in the fight against cocoa pod borer (CPB).
Benjamin said the stakeholders including government agencies, the private sector and the provinces needed to work closely in developing appropriate strategies to deal with the CPB infestation.
Cocoa is the third largest export commodity generating over K300 million annually, however, if CPB is left unchecked has the potential to reduce production by 90%.
The invasive pest has now spread to all seven major cocoa-growing provinces since it was first detected in 2006 in East New Britain.
Benjamin expressed concern that every effort including funding by government towards eradicating and containing CPB had not proved successful and it was important now that the mode of controlling it had to change from eradication to management.
This is a major concern to the government and the industry and immediate action needs to be taken.
Benjamin made the comments during a meeting with representatives from the Cocoa Board, Cocoa Coconut Institute, National Agriculture Research Institute, National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority, Rural Industries Council, East New Britain, Madang and Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
The stakeholders met in Port Moresby last week to discuss the setting up of a national CPB steering committee, national CPB strategy and programme and to effectively utilise the K20 million allocated for CPB in the 2010 budget.
Benjamin stressed that a collaborative approach was needed and an action plan for both medium to long-term had be developed and considered with appropriate interventions such as the World Bank.
He said that active promotion, facilitation and the adoption of CPB management practices including the integrated pest disease management (IPDM) technology should be considered as a priority, together with improved training and awareness on CPB management, provision of appropriate equipment, and provision of high yielding cocoa planting material.
“The approach to manage CPB infestation is basically the adoption of good farming practices including, but not restricted to the technology currently available,” Benjamin said.
“We should now deal with CPB in a more-concerted way and ensure CPB infestation is reduced to less than 10% of the production.”
Benjamin informed stakeholders that despite the CPB threat, cocoa exports reached a record high for the 2008/9 cocoa year.
This was attributed to the high cocoa prices on the world market, support by the European Union to supply 12 million cocoa seedlings to Bougainville and significant investment by MPs to fund cocoa development in their electorates.
There is also high demand for PNG cocoa for its fine flavor status.
Cocoa Board acting CEO Lauatu Tautea said amidst the CPB threat, the board had identified development programmes aimed at taking the industry forward and to maintain cocoa quality, increase production and income of farmers and address extension issues.
The vision of the industry is to ensure an internationally-competitive and viable cocoa industry that supports the national government in its efforts to promote economic and social development and thus improve the standard of living.
Other key programmes include cocoa quality improvement, pest and disease control, farmer training and farm rehabilitation and co-operative marketing.
Provincial representatives said the national government must inject more funding and resources to tackle the CPB infestation otherwise it would continue to spread to other cocoa-growing areas not already affected.
They also called for more awareness on CPB.
The meeting resolved to establish a CPB strategic plan task force comprised of representatives from DAL, Cocoa Board, CCI, NAQIA, NARI and two provincial representatives.
The task force has the specific purpose of developing a strategic plan to deal with the CPB on a national basis and will cover awareness, rehabilitation, redevelopment, research, monitoring and evaluation and finance.