Highlands Potato Farmers Reaping Rewards
Potato farmers in the Highlands are reaping the rewards, thanks to a mass distribution of potato seedlings by agribusiness operator Innovative Agro Industry (IAI) in partnership with the Southern Highlands provincial government. And a donation of K14,000 worth of fertilisers, sprayers and agri-equipment from agricultural products supply business Chemica.
More than 45 tonnes of potato seeds were given out to farmers in Southern Highlands, Enga, Western and Eastern Highlands in May this year.
Now, 4 months later the crops are being harvested to supply the new Highlands Agro Industrial Centre (AIC) in Pangia, Southern Highlands.
The Highlands AIC is a frozen fruits and vegetables processing facility with an automated individually quick-freezing (IQF) processing line and is a equal joint venture between Southern Highlands provincial government and IAI.
Frozen French fries made from potatoes will be the first product to come out of the processing facility, requiring 4000 metric tonnes of potatoes every year. Business development manager Mrs Gallit Tamir said; “We chose frozen French fries as the first product because there are thousands of farmers in the Highlands who grow potatoes and access to domestic markets for these growers has been poor”.
“Initially the factory will need 5 containers of potatoes per week, which is a substantial amount. This operation has the potential to engage hundreds if not thousands of farmers,” said Tamir The AIC factory’s IQF process complies with best industry standards which will also open up export markets, creating even more demand for fresh potatoes “By freezing the produce when it’s at its freshest we are able to preserve the quality and nutritional value,” Tamir added.
“There are also less logistical challenges with frozen produce compared with fresh produce, so it’s able to be transported further, while still maintaining top quality for the consumer.” The Highlands AIC venture is not only an import replacement venture.
It will act as a sustainable bridge for small holder farmers to access markets both domestic and overseas. Frozen French fries from the Project are expected to be on the supermarket shelves in Port Moresby before the end of this year and Highlands AIC plans to also explore processing other locally grown produce, like pineapples, taro, and varieties of berries.
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