Markham Valley’s Agriculture Attraction
The vast commercial agricultural potential of the Markham Valley in Morobe Province has attracted interest from an international organisation. Grow Asia has expanded its operations to Papua New Guinea through Grow PNG to work with agriculture stakeholders.
Grow Asia is an organisation established by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat.
In June this year, Grow PNG, the sixth and the youngest country partnership in the Grow Asia network was established in Lae. The other five countries are Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines.
Grow PNG executive director Ivan Pomaleu said Grow PNG focuses on growers and farmers, existing businesses and stakeholders in the value chain and identify the mutual benefits they can bring.
“The principle for Grow PNG is to ensure that the stakeholders, whether they are growers of agribusiness, can drive action to address issues that are important to them. On our part, we coordinate, support and empower through leadership to raise awareness and to deliver results which addresses those issues,” Mr Pomaleu said.
“We want to do so by establishing working groups around important issues such as land access, small to medium enterprises development, financial inclusivity and market access.” Grow PNG will bring together the country’s business leaders, policy makers and farmers. Its aim is to increase smallholder households’ income within eight years.
Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines and PNG have crops such as cocoa, coconut, palm oil, rice, coffee, corn, cashew, fruits and vegetables, rubber, sugar and tea which are mostly farmed by smallholders or family groups.
The country partnerships with Grow Asia are at different stages of development because of the different local context, input of private sector partners and the unique economic and cultural environment in each country.
In Indonesia, working groups are in place for beef, cocoa, coffee, corn, dairy, horticulture, palm oil, rice, potato, rubber, soy, agri-finance and ICT and vocational training.
Cambodia has working groups for cashew, coconut, finding niche premium markets, fruits & vegetables and pepper.
Myanmar – agri-finance, agri-inputs, aquaculture, coffee, corn, horticulture, mobile services & technical extension, pulses and oilseeds, rice, sugar and tea.
Philippines – coconut, coffee, corn, fisheries, vegetables, agriculture finance and learning alliance.
Vietnam – agrochemicals, coffee, fisheries, fruits & vegetables, livestock, pepper, rice and tea.
New to this partnership, Grow PNG will start with building effective working groups addressing collective challenges and unlocking growth through policy changes, new partnerships and new business models; strengthening partnership and increase trust between civil society, government, agribusiness and farmers; and improving knowledge and information.
Its focus is on the Markham Valley which has been labeled as the ‘food bowl’ of Morobe and PNG. Many commercial agricultural developments such as cassava by SP Brewery for use in alcohol, palm oil and sugar by Ramu Agri Industries, and rice farming, peanuts and cocoa by smallholders are happening in this valley.
In 2016-2017, Markham district led with 37 per cent in cocoa production, contributing to export revenue of K22.3 million according to figures from the Cocoa Board of PNG.
Huon Gulf followed with 35 per cent, Tewae-Siassi 16 per cent, Nawaeb 8 per cent and Lae 1 per cent. The large cocoa contribution by Markham was, however, contested by the Huon Gulf MP, Ross Seymour during the launching of the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture and cocoa board supported Babuaf Wames cocoa nursery in the Lower Watut area in the district in July.
Mr Seymour said Markham was able to reach that volume because most of the cocoa came from the Watut area in Huon Gulf.
He said this is because three major buyers of cocoa have depots in Markham that provided easy access for the Watut cocoa farmers to reach them to sell their beans, leading to increase volume of cocoa coming out of Markham.
The cocoa buyers and exporters are Agmark, Outspan and Elliven, all having depots located some distance apart from each other in Mutzing. In August this year, Morobe also broke new grounds in having a first kaukau (sweet potato) export to Singapore through a church initiated program.
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