Saturday, February 23, 2013

PNG farmers see cash in capsicums

By ABC PNG correspondent LIAM FOX

Papua New Guinea farmers are being encouraged to turn to more lucrative crops, as a national economic boom largely bypasses the rural sector.
While large parts of the world have been wallowing in the economic doldrums, PNG is experiencing an unprecedented boom. But the good times have not spread to rural and remote areas.
There, most people live and survive as subsistence farmers.

Growing demand

But an Australian-funded trial hopes to help them cash in on the boom by supplying the growing demand for fruit and vegetables the growers may not have attempted before.
Foreign investment in mining has helped fuel a decade of strong economic growth in the country. The cranes that dot the Port Moresby skyline are testament to the good times. 
But just 40 kilometres away, in the villages dotted among the rolling hills of the Sogeri plateau, there is little evidence of the economic boom.
Farmers are hoping to earn some real money by taking part in a trial to grow what they consider to be foreign crops.
Village leader Simon Iabana says: "We also want changes in our lives like in the city but it’s hard to get money or things like that."
To generate some income, his people grow ginger and sell it at the markets in the capital.
But farmers are hoping to earn some real money by taking part in a trial to grow what they consider to be foreign crops. They are getting ready to plant broccoli, capsicums and tomatoes.
Local capsicums being sold at Vision City.-Picture by MALUM NALU

Learn more

"We want this project here because we want to learn more," Mr Iabana says.
It will be their second crop - the first perished but researchers are learning from the villagers’ experiences.
Philmah Seta-Waken, of the National Agricultural Research Institute. said: "Some things we’ve learnt, like I learnt that pH (measure of hydrogen) isn’t good here, so we teach the farmers how to help their soil in terms of composting, manuring. We don’t have to go high-tech or anything, at their level."
There are six trial sites at three different altitudes funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.
Down in the lowlands researchers will be growing tomatoes, capsicums and French beans, using different farming systems.
Back in Port Moresby people, pay a premium for imported fruit and vegies.
But the supermarkets would prefer to sell locally grown produce.

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