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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Agriculture Continues To Drive Rural PNG Economy
Plays ‘critical role’ in improving quality of life in PNG

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 22, 2012) – Agriculture still dominates the rural economy of Papua New Guinea, a veteran agricultural researcher says.

Dr. Michael Bourke, an agricultural scientist and independent consultant shared this sentiment at a seminar hosted by the Institute of National Affairs (INA) in Port Moresby yesterday.

The seminar was held to provide an avenue for discussions on the role of agriculture in a national economy dominated by gas, petroleum and mineral exports.

Bourke told participants agriculture made up that 18% of the country’s exports and that figure was likely to decrease to less than 10% in the next four to five years if the sector was given little attention.

"Agriculture has a critical role to improve conditions of Papua New Guineans as it contributes to income," he said.

He added that the major sources of income for middle-class Papua New Guineans were fresh garden products – cash crops like coffee and betel nuts – which has proven to be a thriving industry.

Bourke who has spent more than 40 years with the then Department of Primary Industry (DPI) in PNG, said the informal sector was providing just as much as the formal sector.

He used his studies to point out that the child mortality rate was determined by agricultural income earning activities.

"Child mortality is getting better. There is low child mortality in urban or rural areas with high agricultural income. The opposite is in places of poor environment and no significant economic activity."

He said rapid population growth and declining soil fertility and the depreciating kina were putting pressure on agricultural production.

Treasurer Don Polye announced during the budget lock-up that K320.3 million [US$153.3 million] was allocated to develop the agricultural sector.

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