BY PETER KORUGL
PNG has lost K200m in coffee export earnings due to lower production, parliament said yesterday.
Pomio MP Elias Kapavore told parliament that the loss of production was caused by the coffee tree moth, the disease currently plaguing the coffee industry.
Mr Kapavore said coffee production has increased from 1 million bags a year in the past to 700,000 bags, costing the country around K200 million.
He said this in a series of questions to Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Simon, asking for an explanation of what the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) – the industry’s peak body – was doing to increase production and the coffee price support program put in place by the government.
“That’s a 20 percent drop in production,” he said.
Mr Kapavore said his electorate was looking to coffee production and farmers wanted to know how the CIC was dealing with this threat and wanted assurances from the government that it was doing everything to mitigate the threat of this pest.
“Coffee prices have increased this year and will continue to do so and our farmers are planting more coffee in my constituency to take advantage of the good prices,” he said.
“The price hike is due to bad weather in Brazil and Vietnam – two of the biggest coffee producers in the world.”
Mr Simon replied that PNG had seen a huge drop in coffee production as many large plantations were no longer producing.
“Plantations need labor to operate and today no one wants to work on plantations,” he said.
“My department is in discussion with the owners of these plantations to revive them.
“We want the plantations to be divided into smaller blocks and returned to customary landowners or long-time laborers.”
The minister agreed that after many years, the industry was enjoying the best prices ever for the crop, but that much more needed to be done to ensure the right prices were passed on to growers.
Mr Simon said farmers continued to receive poor prices even in times of good prices and that was something his department would address.
“My ministry on a policy to involve the state in the commercialization of our coffee and other tree crop industries,” he said.
“The state has too long been involved in the extension and production aspects of these industries.”
Mr Simon, in his response to Mr Kapavore on the price support scheme, added that the government had already rolled out the scheme last year at a cost of K50 million and this year K20 million additional ones have been reserved in the 2022 budget.
There are approximately 2.5 million people employed in the coffee industry with 280,000 small growers, 660 large farmers cultivating areas of 1 to 30 hectares and 65 large plantations, 18 registered exporters, 51 registered processors and over 6 000 roadside shoppers.
The discussion on the floor of Parliament comes at a time when CIC and industry participants have announced price spikes and increased production in coffee year 2022 and beyond.