The message now to all coffee farmers in all coffee growing provinces is to get back to the basics of applying best management practices at this crucial time with the coffee berry borer (CBB) already in the country.
This was the key message from Agriculture Minister Hon Tommy Tomscoll when visiting a highly infested coffee block in the Asaro area of Eastern Highlands Province on Friday March 24th, 2017.
Mr Tomscoll was accompanied by senior officials from the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) and the National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspections Authority (NAQIA) to see first-hand infestation in the Mehuwo coffee block.
He said that the CIC and NAQIA teams on the ground are continuing with surveys and hope this will be completed soon so that resources can be allocated to only diseased areas and keep uninfected areas clear of the pest. He added that there had been reports of CBB in Menyamya and Kaintiba by farmers and officers will be going into those two areas to verify this information.
Mr Tomscoll highlighted that CIC and NAQIA have been using internal funds to date and this was likely run out in the next 3 to 4 weeks if immediate funding is not made available by the government.
“We have been working on funding request to the government, having to justify this by developing programs, implementing schedules and cost centres, and has taken us more than a week.” He said there has already been a policy submission made to the National Executive Council (NEC) seeking K65 million to manage and contain the disease and was hopeful that this will be attended to next week.
He added that so far, officers from both organizations have been moving around and working with communities.
He said that once the spread is widespread, eradication would not be an option but to concentrate on managing it and this would require awareness for farmers to understand the disease and exercise best management practices.
“Clearly, agriculture is a social safety net for our people as they are not on doles or any other safety benefits and coffee provides that for about 3.5 million people in Papua New Guinea.”
Mr Tomscoll stressed that the government and respective authorities carrying out CBB work cannot go down to every community at the same time and that is why farmers are urged to take ownership of the situation and come forward immediately to report cases of CBB so that it can be attended to.
He said that it was important to build the capacity of research institutions so that tolerant crops could be developed in the long term.
Mr Tomscoll added that the only time people should panic is when they are not engaging best management practices and encouraging an environment for the pest to survive. “It really comes back to coffee farmers.”
“The biggest challenge now is to educate farmers to take ownership and start attending to their coffee gardens.”
The Mehuwo coffee block in the Asaro areas is seventy percent infested and will be quarantined.
Meanwhile, CIC CEO Mr Charles Dambui said more manpower and resources would be needed in the coming days to address the high infestation levels in affected areas. “At this stage of incursion, we are asking traders to refrain from buying and selling cherry coffee.
CIC Bio-control research Officer Kingsten Okka (right) explaining CBB work on the ground to Agriculture Minister Hon. Tommy Tomscoll and CIC officials who visited the highly infested Mehuwo coffee block in the Asaro area on Friday March 24th, 2017.
APPROVED FOR RELEASE:
Chief Executive Officer
Coffee Industry Corporation