A new coffee storage shed at Simbai Station has brought a new breath of air for thousands of simple coffee growers in Middle Ramu District, particularly Simbai and Kovon LLG.
The permanent storage facility has a 2,000 bags (50kg) capacity and is the modern building in this remote station accessible by small aircrafts only from Mission Aviation Fellowship, Adventist Aviation Services, Heli Lift PNG and Central Aviation.
It was a simple and practical solution to bring coffee out from the rugged mountains of Simbai and Kovon where growers harvest all-year-round.
This was an initiative of Anglican Church (Aipo Rongo Diocese) in partnership with Coffee Industry Corporation’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP).
In only three weeks after construction of the shed, close to 500 parchment coffee bags (50kg) have been airlifted out of Simbai Station to Mt Hagen from this facility.
The parchment coffee bags are now overcrowding the Aipo Rongo Diocese office in Mt Hagen. A container purchased earlier has now become relevant with plans to purchase more.
On Saturday 4 August, 80 bags (50kg) were airlifted by a Russian chopper on a backload from the storage shed located next to the airstrip.
The coffee bags are awaiting processing into green bean for export.
“This has never happened before and we’re excited. We believe something good is coming,” says lead partner Bishop Nathan Ingen of ACPNG.
The 28 meters by 8 meters coffee shed was officially opened on Friday 3 August, 2018 by CIC-PPAP manager Potaisa Hombunaka. The coffee manager also launched and handed over basic coffee rehabilitation tools and materials like spade heads, bush knives, pruning saws and hand pulpers to the growers.
“Our growers are very simple people with simple minds who are sensitive to price. Hence marketing is the key to get growers interested to remain in their coffee gardens,” said Mr Hombunaka.
“The idea behind the storage shed was to help growers deliver parchment coffee to a central location for group marketing of their coffee as green bean as opposed to individual sales of parchment coffee to ground buyers.”
“The issue of forex and national production is irrelevant to simple growers. We must focus on what they’re responsive to and the rest will take care of itself,” he added.
The growers shouted in excitement when the coffee manager also announced that he has talked to CIC to provide a mini huller to process their coffee to green bean before freighting to Hagen.
“A mini huller near the coffee storage shed will reduce up to 30 percent weight to be transported to Mt Hagen, hence extra 20 to 30 percent Kina in growers’ pockets. This will be another motivation for growers to produce more quality coffee,” said Mr Hombunaka.
A second building is under construction at Simbai Station to house the mini huller and offices.
Mr Hombunaka said he hope that CIC will release the huller to PPAP by end of September or early October to service the rural struggling farmers.
“We can achieve this if we work together as Team CIC addressing simple growers’ needs,” he said.
The coffee manager also challenged the lead partner ACPNG to facilitate the export as Simbai specialty coffee.
“This year ACPNG aims to export up to three containers but definitely next year onwards export of up to 10 containers per year is achievable.”
“We will aim to export their coffee as micro-lots which attracts better prices, similarly for other PPAP farmer groups throughout the country,” explained Mr Hombunaka.
Other dignitaries at the launching were CIC-PPAP lead partner Rev. Bishop Nathan Ingen of ACPNG; BSP Mt Hagen Manageress, Theresa Pilamp; David Pank, Operations Manager MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship); Godfrey Savi, Madang DAL Provincial Advisor; CIC-PPAP Coffee consultant Steven Tevo and ACPNG’s three project coordinators Vincent Keniemba (Simbai), Simon Gesip (Kovon) and Petrus Taia (Lower Jimi).
Rev. Bishop Ingen was grateful to CIC-PPAP and coffee rehabilitation financiers World Bank and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and PNG Government.
“God has timing for everything. After 43 years of Independence we can see some changes through this coffee rehabilitation partnership with CIC, PPAP, World Bank, IFAD, PNG Government, MAF, BSP and others.” MAF is referred to as Simbai’s PMV.
Bishop Ingen also urged heads of other denominations and their followers in Middle Ramu to support these initiatives.
“This is not for ACPNG only. We have created a road map for Simbai and Middle Ramu. This is for all of us,” he said.
The number of people who walked for hours or days from their hamlets in the mountains to camp at the station for 24 and 48 hours prior to the launching on Friday was amazing.
Over 3,000 men, women, youths and children came from all corners of Middle Ramu. Some walked from as far as the inland Keram area of Angoram District in East Sepik Province while others arrived from Lower Jimi in Jiwaka Province.
It was a big gathering for a small Simbai Station and also for Middle Ramu District which has been neglected for years.
“Mipela ol bus lain ya, yu klia. Dispela em bikpela samting long mipela. Olsem na mipela karim wanpela liklik kofi beg na wokabaut kam slip. Tumora bai go bek,” said a coffee grower William Meko in Pidgin English who walked with his 8-years-old son and wife Emma.
The storage facility and the second mini huller house under construction will be the latest modern buildings in a small Simbai Station which has a secondary and primary school, a sub-health centre, DAL and CIC office and some ACPNG houses built during colonial times.
The coffee storage shed may not provide all the solutions for the growers scattered across the mountains as road access remains their biggest obstacle.
The 70km Aiom-Simbai road has been abandoned for over a decade following collapsed of several bridges. It has become impassable but can be fixed by the people themselves should a tractor is purchased in the future to move coffees more efficiently to the storage shed.
The only moving vehicle in the station is a mini-jeep delivered recently on a twin-otter.
Nevertheless, the storage facility will help with the following for the moment:
- To create and mobilise interest among stakeholders for the setting up of coffee processing mills in Simbai and Kovon LLG to buy directly from growers.
- To give growers the opportunity to negotiate a better or fair price;
- To monitor and record coffee production efficiently from these locations;
- To strengthen farmer groups or growers’ cooperatives to work together; and
- To encourage and develop group marketing concept among growers and cooperatives to sell green bean coffee directly overseas for a premium price.
The facility has two times storage rooms on either sides and three offices space in the middle. The facilities will be shared with MAF for travel services and BSP for installation of rural banking services.
The ACPNG in partnership with BSP has conducted financial literacy training and opening of accounts for all growers, inclusive of those under the partnership.
“This is the least we can do to ease the hardship or struggles growers here are facing until such time a road connects us to either Mt Hagen or Madang,” said ACPNG project coordinator Vincent Keniemba.
The coffee rehabilitation project is a PNG Government (Department of Agriculture and Livestock) initiative supported by World Bank and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) through loan financing. It is implemented by the Coffee Industry Corporation through a Project Management Unit known as PPAP-Coffee Component.
Approved for release:
Mr Potaisa Hombunaka