Monday, December 01, 2008

PNG's potato industry faces more threats

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 outspoken farmer Graeme Ross (pictured above).

Mr Ross, who runs Alele Farm Fresh Produce, said that PNG faced a very real threat from these diseases through imported Australian potatoes

“The industry is being 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.”

Mr Ross said potato was very important to PNG, worth about K100m to the national economy, and was an important cash crop for small rural farmers.

“It’s a major food source for some high altitude provinces,” he said.

“It’s easy to grow and there is a major interest in producing the crop within the country.

“It’s grown in nearly all the provinces.”


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