Monday, March 07, 2011

Challenges of pig production in Papua New Guinea


Cross-bred pigs at Lennie Aparima’s pig farm at Munum village, Morobe province
Pork meat has been an important protein source for many generations of Papua New Guineans and continues to be so in many parts of the country.
However, supply of pork meat is still low.
Local commercial suppliers of chilled pork meat are unable to meet the high demand.
This is evident with the import of additional quotas of chilled pork meat.
On the other hand, the larger informal live pig market may also be facing shortages in meeting demands, with reports of live pigs selling at K1, 000 – K3000 in the highlands during the 2010 festive season.
These pigs are generally from native and cross bred origins and farmed with limited input. Information on this sub-sector is limited as past efforts were mostly focused on commercial breeds.
The National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), in its effort to improve smallholder productivity through sustainable pig farming practices, conducted a baseline survey of smallholder pig production in the Morobe province to identify constraints and opportunities for further research and development.
The survey covered the Markham, Wau-Bulolo, Huon Gulf, Nawae, Tewai-Siassi, Finschhafen and Kabwum districts.
Pig farming is a labour intensive activity depending on the number of pigs per household. Therefore, a valid assumption would be the more pigs per household, the more labour input needed to sustain increased herd numbers.
However, this assumption does not hold true as the survey noted that household size had no influence on herd numbers.
This is attributed to the traditional low input practice of scavenging where pigs are left to fend for themselves.
Despite the predominantly low management input associated with traditional practices, the current trend is showing that farmers prefer to keep their pigs enclosed.
Due to increasing population densities and shortage of arable land, growing of food crops has intensified.
Scavenging pigs poses a threat to food gardens.
Some areas surveyed have enforced village laws to keep pigs enclosed.
This situation is forcing farmers to adopt the ‘highlands’ practice of tethering pigs.
Enclosed pigs require the farmer to provide all necessary inputs for its welfare.
Survey results show that the standard approach in feeding pigs comprises of starchy staples sourced from food gardens.
Farmers are content with this approach assuming that both feed and water is provided.
However, problems arise with this approach as protein and water requirement for pigs are not being adequately met.
As a result, the farmers have been observing a decline in the growth performance of their enclosed pigs and bluntly request for ‘marasin’ or medication alluding to protein supplements. Similar needs are expressed for fencing materials.
It was also noted that farmers in accessible districts rarely invest in pig production despite reporting good returns from selling their pigs.
Obligations such as school fees took higher precedence with income generated from the pig sales.
Pig farmers need more awareness on opportunities for improving their current production systems.
Economic modelling of improved pig farming systems can motivate and encourage farmers to enhance and sustain their production.
Most farmers surveyed keep crosses of native and exotic lines to capitalise on the hardiness and low input requirement of the native breed and the faster growth rate of exotic breeds.
However, a higher level of input in feed and management is needed for these crossbred pigs to be profitable.
Furthermore, farmers perceive their pigs to be suffering from serious ailments.
However, PNG is largely free from major contagious pig diseases apart from common ailments such as diarrhoea and the common flu associated with poor management practices.
Pig farmers in the Morobe province are being encouraged to emerge from the low input level of production into a more market-orientated production system where there they have reinvest from income generated from pig sales.
This is the case with two pig farmers from the Situm area outside Lae.
These farmers currently manage a breeding herd of about 50 pigs each, consistently producing live pigs for the informal market.
The pigs are fed with on farm-formulated feeds using agricultural by-products.
There is a lot of capital investment in terms of feed, housing and labour.
This higher level of production has been reached by the pair due to consistent investments back into their farms from the income generated from the sale of pigs.
A previous scheme initiated in the area by the Pelgens Smallgoods Company, whereby local farmers obtained weaned piglets from the company and raised to supplying the abattoir, has been unsuccessful.
This scheme needs some improvement based on previous experiences as a similar concept has been successfully implemented by Niugini Tablebirds with broiler chickens.
Improved technologies in pig feeding and management for enclosed pigs are required by the smallholder pig farmers in Morobe province.
They may not be alone; this is the situation for farmers’ country wide.
With proper management practices and formulating pig feeds using locally available resources would go in a long way to help increase pig production.
NARI has developed a pig feed using sweet potato tubers and leaves which was officially released to the farming community last May for adoption.
This is among other technologies on livestock feed that NARI is developing using locally available sources taking into consideration the increased cost of commercial feeds.
It is hoped with such technologies available, farmers will increase livestock production for their own consumption as well as for income.

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