Treat coffee as an economic tree to combat CBB pest: official

WE can combat the coffee berry borer (CBB) threat with farmers support to change their mindset and start treating coffee as an economic tree, says an industry official.

Project Manager for Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (coffee) Potaisa Hombunaka says the CBB pest “is a blessing in disguise”.

“It is bad but will make farmers get serious with coffee as a business by looking after their coffee gardens.”

“A coffee garden that grows wild is a perfect host for the CBB pest. Unless every farmer in an area regularly applies basic post-harvest practice like pruning the berries will attract the beetle.”

According to CIC, in a full CBB infested garden the farmer and pest will fight for the same cherry bean where a 17kg cherry can end up producing only 1kg parchment coffee.

The loss is significant to the farmer and his families and likewise for the national economy which only recently recorded K600 million in foreign exchange in 2016.

Mr Hombunaka explains PNG is the second coffee producing country in the world to have this pest. Countries already had CBB pest like Vietnam continue to produce high yield coffee because farmers always look after or manage their gardens like a business.

“We have an attitude or cultural dilemma. We visit the coffee garden only when we have social obligations to fulfil like pride price payments or to pay a village court fine. This is how we treat coffee as a social tree.

“I urge farmers to start employing a business approach to treat coffee as an economic tree by returning regular care to the trees which have been faithfully looking after you for years,” says Mr Hombunaka.

The PPAP coffee manager issued this strong message to farmers following distribution of basic coffee gardening tools and materials like hand pulpers, bush knives and secateurs or scissors to 400 farmers in Wantrifu Village, Asaro Valley, Eastern Highlands Province, on Saturday 9 September, 2017.

This is a tool intervention program by PPAP coffee to help 30,000 coffee households covered under the industry rehabilitation project to improve their coffee gardens for a high quality yield for more income to improve and sustain their wellbeing.

The latter is the principle aim of this World Bank and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development Fund) loan financed project with support funding from PNG Government.

An elder in Wantrifu Village echoed PPAP coffee manager’s call for farmers to abandon their haus kunai for a permanent house or home by 2020.

Philip Timbe of Hatavile Coffee, a lead partner of Coffee Industry Corporation’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP) said “Operation rausim haus kunai has commenced as of today (Saturday 9 September, 2017) so by 2020 everyone must own a permanent house.”

Mr Timbe told the farmers to change their mindset and the conventional way of doing things to begin treating coffee as a serious business and utilize its earnings to improve their lifestyle by funding children’s school fees and start saving for a permanent home.

“With the presence of CBB beetle we have to start thinking and acting proactively. It is time to return the favour the trees have been providing to us for years.

“The CIC officers have been very active to come to our area to prune and clean our coffee gardens and  pay us as well for the labour. What kind of logic is this?”

The farmers who paid their 5 per cent equity or K66 gathered quickly at Hatavile warehouse at Tafeto haus lain after an afternoon downpour to receive a hand pulper, canvas, scissors or secateurs and bush knives under the industry rehabilitation tool intervention program.

“These tools are not for you to go and sell. It will cost you over a thousand Kina to get all these items. Purpose of the equity is to take ownership of the items,” explains Project Manager Potaisa Hombunaka who witnessed the occasion.

“We ensure equity payment is deposited back into the partnerships account to service the farmers.”

A coffee farmer John Karakarapu was very thankful to the CIC-PPAP intervention to equip him with the tools and materials which he could not afford.

“I’m very very happy today. God bless you in your good work.”

Hatavile Coffee is working with 400 farmers and two extension officers under Call 4 in three villages in Asaro. With the presence of CBB pest, CIC officers in the past weeks have conducted full pruning of many coffee gardens in the area.

“The coffee gardens have been rehabilitated and look great but farmers must take ownership and do it themselves from now on,” says Mr Hombunaka.

One of PPAP coffee manager Mr Potaisa Hombunaka and the group picture of PPAP coffee and Hatavile Coffee Ltd managers with farmers at Wantrifu Village in EHP after receiving their gardening tools.


Approved for release:

Potaisa H. Hombunaka (Mr)