By ABIGAIL APINA
East New Britain’s ailing cocoa industry – which has lost millions of kina because of the dreaded cocoa pod borer (CPB) - has received a shot in the arm with the establishment of a K2.8 million project for rehabilitation work, The National reports.
The PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute (PNGCCI) has reported that in East New Britain alone, cocoa production had dropped from 20, 227 tonnes to 8,000 tonnes per year between 2004-2005 and 2009-2010, representing a drop in monetary value from K141.6 million to K56 million over the period.
NGIP Agmark signed an agreement with PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) and PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute (PNGCCI) last Friday to work together cocoa rehabilitation in East New Britain.
PNGSDP is providing K2.8 million and will manage finances while Agmark will implement the project.
PNGCCI will provide technical advisory services to the project and provide lead in the household survey, monitor and evaluate the project.
The project includes establishment of farmer training and dormitory facilities, and facilitates training of farmers on industry best agronomic practices of growing and managing cocoa trees for maximum production.
It is understood that the training facility will be constructed at Tokiala, one of Agmark’s plantation in ENB.
Nurseries and bud wood gardens will also be established in various project sites where they will be easily accessible by the farmers.
The project will establish nurseries at strategic locations to supply 234, 591 cocoa seedlings equivalent to 282 hectares of new cocoa plantings to 1, 172 households.
Each household will receive 200 seedlings for planting and these households will be from Kadaulung, Sikut, Warongoi, Toma, Bitagalip, Tokiala and inland Baining.
The agreement states that production and productivity in the cocoa industry has declined significantly over the last 10 years due to age and senility of current of current cocoa plantings, incursion of the cocoa pod borer (CPB) and farmers not having access to good planting materials.
It highlighted that since CPB was first detected in the province in 2006, it has become a significant economic pest with drastic decline in cocoa production as infestation levels over the economic threshold limit of 50-60 percent.
The impact of CPB on individual farmers and the provincial economy was devastating as smallholders were now switching away from cocoa farming to other subsistence activities.
According to an overview of the project, the combined impacts of these factors have devastated the industry.
It said 97% of cocoa production came from smallholders and over 76% of households rely on cocoa for incomes.
It said impact on rural livelihood was particularly severe with a significant flow on effects on health, education services and general business as people’s main source of income declined.
The K2.8 million project is expected to make a substantial contribution to the rehabilitation of smallholder cocoa production in East New Britain and other cocoa-producing areas.
The project will end on March 2015.