PM of PNG joins World Bank to explore ways to boost agricultural development
Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, the Hon. James Marape, joined senior members of the World Bank and its sister organization, the International Finance Corporation, IFC, in a visit to the PNG Highlands this week to explore ways to bolster agricultural development and people's access to markets and services.
The visit comes on the back of a new strategy for the World Bank Group in PNG, which lays out a clear focus on diversifying the country's economy from its reliance on extractives, spurring private sector growth and jobs, and improving people's access to basic services – transport, education, energy, and financial services, particularly for PNG's rural population.
"It is an honor to host representatives from these two international organizations in my home province Hela, and my home town, Tari," said Prime Minister James Marape.
"The World Bank and IFC continue to support PNG with many projects in sectors such as agriculture and road transport. This has been a valuable opportunity to discuss our Government's priorities for our partnership."
Home to about 40 percent of PNG's population, the Highlands region has a rich agricultural history, but low crop yields, climate change and isolation from markets have held back the region's agricultural development. Talks during the visit focused on ways to support farmers to seize new opportunities and access new markets and on options to improve transport and services links as well as the provision of basic services, in particular power, for all communities in the Highlands including the most remote.
"Creating opportunities outside the natural resources sector in PNG is essential to creating income opportunities for the many Papua New Guineans who live in rural areas like the Highlands," said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
"Being welcomed to Tari – the PM's home – and having the opportunity to hear from people throughout Hela Province about agriculture in this region has been a powerful reminder of the potential and of the importance of working together to deliver improved services and opportunities for people across the Highlands. We were also pleased to hear from the Prime Minister about his priorities for future funding from the World Bank."
The World Bank Group has already been working extensively to help boost agricultural production and farmers' incomes in the Highlands and across the country. Since it began in 2010, the World Bank-funded Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project has grown to become the country's largest agricultural program, supporting over 68,000 cocoa and coffee producers nationally, including over 24,000 women farmers. Plans are underway to expand the project to focus on crops such as copra as well as livestock.
IFC, which focuses on the private sector in developing countries, has been working with agricultural wholesalers and retailers, Tininga, in Mt Hagen, using new technology, training farmers to boost their yields, and setting up a farm to city refrigerated supply chain to transport produce to Port Moresby. IFC is also working with farmers to find new markets in an innovative project to commercialize the production of starch from cassava.
"With its fertile lands, the Highlands could truly become the breadbasket for Papua New Guinea, meeting rising demand in the country for fresh produce, and reducing reliance on imports. With the right policies in place and bringing in the private sector, Papua New Guinea could also look to export more produce overseas, putting more money into the pockets of the country's farmers," said Thomas Jacobs, IFC Country Manager for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.
"We've already investigated options to improve market access through better transport links between the Highlands and Port Moresby and are looking at potential investment opportunities with the private sector. With Papua New Guinea's critical need for energy, we're also looking to develop small- and large-scale power solutions, building on the success of our Lighting PNG program which has helped 2.1 million people gain access to off-grid solar lighting and mobile phone charging for the first time."
After meeting with the Prime Minister in Tari, the World Bank Group team is continuing to other areas in the Highlands to meet with other senior government officials, local producers, and emerging businesses.
The World Bank has been in PNG since 1967 and the partnership has grown significantly since then. In the last seven years, the net commitment of concessional financing has increased from US$189.4 million in 2012 to US$540.19 million today. For its part, IFC has committed the US $335 million of financing in Papua New Guinea, since 2009. IFC's advisory work in the country totaling 38.9 million at the end of December 2019, is supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand under the PNG Partnership.