Photo credit: International Trade and Investment Ministry of Papua New Guinea Facebook Page
The team of rice investors from the Republic of the Philippines who arrived on Monday have chosen Gabadi in the Kairuku District of Central Province as the most ideal location for large-scale rice investment in Papua New Guinea (PNG), under the nucleus estate concept. They want to establish a 800-hectare estate rice model farm and train and support local village out grower farmers under family owned or rice-cooperative farmers from Brown River to Vanapa and to Gabadi all the way to Bereina.
The Filipino investors’ plan for this Rice Nucleus Estate Model Farm is to set up rice demonstration blocks, a rice processing plant and farmer training facilities for out growers.
“We want to train the local farmers to be better rice farmers and we will buy all the rice that they produce. We will bring our science and technology and invest in mechanized large-scale commercial rice farming in PNG,” said former Philippines Department of Agriculture Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Pinol.
The land they are interested in to set up the 800-hectare model rice farm with all the processing facilities is the recently acquired Manumanu State land which was recently acquired by the Government through KCHL for K34 million.
The local people at Gabadi have vigorously opposed the establishment of the Military Barracks and welcomed the visit of the National Government and the Filipino Rice investors when they visited yesterday. They indicated full support for the rice industry development including the use of the Manumanu land for the rice model farm so they can also benefit from the cultivation of rice as their major cash crop in the Kairuku District.
“We need large-scale jobs and wealth creation opportunities,” said the Ukaukana village Councillor of the Kairuku LLG, Victor Maggio.
Minister Maru said the undeveloped land will not generate any return to the State for the K34 million it spent to buy the land.
“The development of over 100, 000 hectares of rice in Kairuku District will replace over K800 million in rice imports annually with the proposed Gabadi model farm being the catalyst. We will need only one year for the Government to recoup the K34 million it spent to acquire the Manumanu land purely on economic returns,” said Minister Maru.
“We must make use of thousands of hectares of unused State land all over the country to generate revenue and create employment and wealth for our citizens. The Manumanu land is one of such land,” Minister Maru said.
The Filipino delegation led by Dr. Pinol and consisting of scientists, engineers, economists, financiers, as well as an award-winning farmer were convinced that Gabadi is the ideal location for them to farm rice. After conducting some rapid field tests, Dr Pinol said that Gabadi and the surrounding areas have the right mixture of silty loam and clay in their soils, a lot of available water, abundance of flat land and good climate. They collected soil samples from Brown River, Vanapa and Gabadi and were so impressed will be agronomic conditions for rice growing in PNG.
“In the Philippines, on average, rice yield per hectare is only 4 tons whilst in Papua New Guinea, around Central Province you could easily have an average yield of up to 8 hectares of rice per ton making PNG one of the most ideal countries to grow rice anywhere in the world,” said Dr. Pinol.
“PNG can be a major rice exporter to the world in the future if it fully develops its rice potential,” he added.
From initial estimates from the trip yesterday, the Brown River area could mobilize 10,000 hectares for rice, Vanapa up to 40,000 hectares of logged out land flat land and Gabadi and outwards to Bereina and beyond another 100,000 hectares.
“Combined with Rigo District the Central Province could easily grow and feed the entire country with rice, if we use mechanized farming methods, drone irrigation and solar power to provide electricity. Papua New Guinea only needs 100,000 hectares of rice farms to produce the 400,000 tonnes of rice we consume annually,” said Minister Maru.
The Filipino delegation also met with Prime Minister, Hon. James Marape yesterday and briefed him on their trip to the Central Province and their bold decision to build a model rice farm in Gabadi this year.
“If agreement is reached between the National Government, who owns the Manumanu land at Gabadi, the Central Provincial Government, the Kairiku District Development Authority, the Hiri Koiari District Development Authority and the local impact communities, the project can begin this year,” said Minister Maru.
Minister Maru asked the Philippines delegation to formally communicate their interest to the Government so he can formally put to them the process we can jointly follow to bring the project into reality.
“It will certainly start with a full feasibility study with a 10-year rice development plan, fully costed with financial modelling to assess the scientific, technical, environmental and financial viability of the project. This includes ascertaining the capital investments that is required to be made,” Minister Maru said.
Minister Maru said the Marape-Rosso Government is keen to be a shareholder in the project together with the Central Provincial Government and the respective DDAs and LLGs.
“The National Government must also take a decision to free up the Manumanu land for this agriculture project to help our country finally after 47 years to start on such a project of national significance that has the potential to supply our country our entire country and help us replace the K800 million we spend annually on rice import,” said Minister Maru.
“It will only help us create thousands of new jobs for rice farmers and business opportunities for our families. The Philippines has a dual interest in investing in rice in Papua New Guinea.
It is an exciting investment opportunity for them while the investment is also needed to their own food security. They will export the surplus rice back to the Philippines. They do not have the land to grow enough rice to feed their own people, whose staple diet is rice,” Minister Maru said.
“The Gabadi Model Farm is such a high priority of the Marape-Rosso Government so I will request the investor to fast track the completion of the feasibility studies so we can put a detailed submission to the NEC to approve this project in the coming months in close consultation with the respective DDA’s, the Department of Agriculture, the Central Provincial Government and the Prime Minister and the National Government. The Central Province commercial rice industry will be developed as a Special Economic Zone project so the Government can provide the project all the support it needs both in fiscal incentives and infrastructure support including extending the power lines down to Gabadi, where the proposed model farm will be established,” said Minister Maru.
“This large-scale rice development opportunity with our Philippines investors presents the best opportunity our country has had since Independence to replace our rice imports of K800 million annually and propel PNG into being a net rice exporter to the world so grab this opportunity with both hands and run with it,” said Minister Maru.