Thursday, April 07, 2011

Pyrethrum has lots of potential for Papua New Guinea

Daisy-like pyrethrum flower at the experimental paddock at Tambul, Western Highlands.Pictures by MALUM NALU
Pyrethrum is not a high-profile cash crop such as coffee; however, it is a potential money-spinner for 880,000 people dwelling in high altitude areas where coffee cannot grow.
Potential pyrethrum-growing areas include Laiagam, Kandep, Wabag and Wapenamanda areas of Enga province; Tambul of Western Highlands; Ialibu and Upper Mendi areas of Southern Highlands; Kerowagi, Gumine and Gembogl areas of Chimbu; and Okapa, Henganofi and Lufa areas of Eastern Highlands.
Pyrethrum (Tanacetum cinerariaefolium) is a daisy-like plant which is cultivated for the production of pyrethrins and insecticides (insect poison).
It has six active chemicals which do not harm people or animals and rapidly degrades in the environment (no residue problems), and has low risk of insect resistance
Currently, according to pyrethrum scientists Kud Sitango and Enopa Lindsay of the National Agriculture Research Institute, 90% of the pyrethrum is grown in Enga Province, with production having ceased in other pyrethrum-growing areas

NARI’s ‘Team Pyrethrum’ (from left) team leader Kud Sitango, field assistant Danny Momo, scientist Enopa Lindsay and field assistant Kennufa Moui at the project signboard in Tambul, Western Highlands.
People, however, can make money by growing pyrethrum, with current production estimated at 50-60 tonnes per year and generating income valued at about K150, 000 annually.
Most of this is from Laigam in Enga.
Sitango and Lindsay say pyrethrum is suitable a farm crop because:

• In PNG it is non-seasonal, all year-around crop;

• There are always flowers to harvest and sell;

• It can be stored;

• It can always be sold even though the price is not high;

• It can be grown in small plots or around the base of the kaukau (sweet potato) mound;

• It can be worked by hand labor alone and requires little capital,

• It is easy to grow because planting materials are readily available and easily obtained; and

• It is currently regarded as the “women and children’s crop” in Enga Province.

A four-year Australian Centre for Integrated Agriculture Research (ACIAR) pyrethrum project started in January 2007 and ended in December 2010, however, according to Sitango and Lindsay, “most of the planned activities were implemented partially completed due to lack of appropriate knowledge and supervision”.
“Pyrethrum was introduced into PNG on trial basis in the late 1950s and it became a good attractive cash crop for the highlands (above2, 000 metres),” they said in their ACIAR report.

Dried pyrethrum flowers.
“From the 1960s to the late 1980s, the pyrethrum industry played a major role in sustaining the livelihood of some 65-85,000 people in the highland areas.
“Local women, children and old people were the key workers in this industry and these important social groupings were the key beneficiaries from this industry.
“In 1995, the pyrethrum extraction factory that purchased the crop from the growers closed down and this resulted in a lot of primarily subsistence farmers losing their major source of cash income.
“In 2000-2001, the Enga provincial government purchased this extraction factory and spent some $A1.2 million to re-commission this factory.
“Pre-1995, all of the pyrethrum crude extract, called oleoresin, produced in PNG was sold to an American company.
“This marketing arrangement ceased when the factory closed in 1995 and the PNG industry has not been able to re-establish a market for their pyrethrum extract products.

Pyrethrum seeds.
“There are two main reasons for this failure to gain a marketing position: Pyrethrum is an insecticide and producers are required to have access to the full toxicology, ecotoxicology and use pattern Data Package before their products can obtain access into the vast majority of world markets.
“Unfortunately, the PNG industry does not have access to this data and the costs of obtaining this Data Package are in the order of $A3-4 million.
“The pyrethrum oleoresin produced by the PNG industry requires an additional refining process before it can be used by the product formulators and there are only three major pyrethrum refineries in the world.
“Botanical Resources Australia–Agricultural Services Pty Ltd (BRA) developed a business arrangement with the Enga Government in late October 2005 to buy pyrethrum.
“BRA is one of the two largest pyrethrum producers in the world producing 40% of the world usage of pyrethrum products.
“BRA has a modern and technologically-advanced production and manufacturing facility in Tasmania and a strong production base in Tasmania.
“BRA is also a share owner of a comprehensive Data Package on pyrethrum, including detailed information on toxicology, enviro-toxicology, residue, efficacy and risk analysis for a wide range of situations.
“BRA has used this data to support the registration of pyrethrum in all of the major markets, including the USA, Europe, Japan, Korea as well as Australia.
“Without access to this data package or a similar data package, a pyrethrum producer will not be able to register their product in these major world markets.
“The PNG industry is still recovering from the joint shock of the factory closure and the subsequent withdrawal of the key US pyrethrum buyer.”

Team leader Kud Sitango, field assistant Danny Momo, scientist Enopa Lindsay and field assistant Kennufa Moui around a pyrethrum flower in Tambul
All is not lost, however, thanks to NARI and the Enga provincial government.
Enga provincial government’s objective on pyrethrum is to alleviate poverty and improve cash income in the province, promoting it as cash crop
NARI’s objective on pyrethrum is an emerging crop and potential cash crop for high altitude to improve cash income problem faced by 880, 000 people, (15% of total 5.5million PNG population).
NARI, and the unwavering support of the Enga provincial government – through its Enga Pyrethrum Company, which runs the Kagamuga pyrethrum extraction factory in Mt Hagen – and of course a small band of dedicated farmers has seen pyrethrum continue to thrive.

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