Agribusiness [sector profile]


Papua New Guinea’s agricultural sector has a number of competitive advantages, including high seasonal rainfall, good quality soil and low-intensity methods. The absence of pesticides and artificial fertilisers presents opportunities for PNG to position itself as a leading organic producer.

 Planting oil palms at Ramu. © NBPOL

Planting oil palms at Ramu. © NBPOL

Palm oil, coffee and cocoa are Papua New Guinea’s three most valuable agricultural commodities, together representing almost 80% of PNG’s total agricultural export values. Other agricultural products include copra, rubber, spices, sugar and tea. PNG-reared livestock, especially beef, poultry products and pigs, also supplies a growing local market.

Important contribution

Papua New Guineans are a nation of farmers. While agriculture only accounts for about 25% of Papua New Guinea’s GDP, about 85% of PNG’s people are engaged in food production at a subsistence level. They grow food crops and breed domestic animals for their own communal use, then produce cash crops on any excess land, supplying a number of larger agribusinesses which aggregate and market their produce.

While agriculture only accounts for about 25% of Papua New Guinea’s GDP, about 85% of PNG’s people are engaged in food production at a subsistence level.

PNG agricultural exports are currently booming. In 2011, agricultural exports were worth 3.7 billion kina (US$1.74 billion)—a 28% increase on the previous year.


While this is encouraging, the commercial performance of the agricultural sector over the past decade has until recently been modest. Expansion of agribusiness has been inhibited by inadequate and poorly maintained transport infrastructure, marketing issues, and law and order problems. The commercial use of customarily held land is also legally complicated. The established process of issuing Special Agricultural and Business Leases (whereby the landowners lease their land to the PNG Government, which takes the responsibility for leasing it to a developer), has been subject of a Commission of Inquiry since 2011 following reported abuses to the system.

Mainland Holdings' crocodile farm in Lae exports crocodile skins to Europe

Mainland Holdings’ crocodile farm in Lae exports crocodile skins to Europe

Palm oil

Palm oil is now PNG’s most valuable export crop. The value of palm oil exports in 2011 was 1.48 billion kina (US$700 million), a 44% increase over the preceding year due to high world prices and higher production.

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About 55% of the oil palm is grown on estates, and the industry directly supports over 20,000 smallholder families. The oil palm is turned into four products: crude palm oil, palm kernel oil, refined palm oil and palm kernel expellent, which is used for stockfeed. All PNG palm oil is exported to the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Three major schemes—Hoskins, Bialla and Popondetta— produce most of PNG’s palm oil and all operate their own mills. The Hoskins project area contributed more than half of total production in 2007. Newer projects are underway in Milne Bay and New Ireland. In 2007, plantings also commenced in Central Province and in Sandaun Province.

New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL) is Papua New Guinea’s largest oil palm plantation and milling operator. It has more than 78,000 hectares under management for oil palm production, eleven oil mills and two refineries. NBPOL also has a palm oil refinery in Liverpool, England, to meet the demands of European Union food manufacturers and in February 2012 commissioned a new bakery fats plant on the same site. It also has a joint venture with European confectioner Ferrero in PNG

NBPOL subsidiary Ramu Agri Industries only recently entered the oil palm sector, with its first shipment to Europe in 2008. Another new player is Malaysia’s R H Group.

Most sugar produced in PNG is for domestic consumption. Credit: NBPOL

Most sugar produced in PNG is for domestic consumption. Credit: NBPOL


PNG cocoa has between 75% and 85% fine cacao flavour—an indicator of quality—and PNG is one of the few countries where cocoa can grow organically. Cocoa generates about 22% of the value of PNG’s agricultural exports, with a value of 320 million kina (US$134 million) in 2011. More than 65% of the crop is produced by rural households and the rest on plantations.

The PNG Cocoa Board is responsible for regulating and developing the cocoa industry, and for supporting research and extension services. Regulatory responsibilities include quality control, issuing of export licences and fermentaries registration. There is also a push to explore downstream processing opportunities such as cocoa liquor and cocoa butter.

The PNG Government has targeted 100,000 tonnes of cocoa exports by 2016. The ability to reach this target depends on improving the yield of smallholders. The average cocoa production per family in PNG (300kg per hectare per year) is low, although experts believe this could be significantly improved with better pest and disease management, pruning of trees and shade management.

The destination markets for PNG’s cocoa (in order of size) in 2006 were the US, Belgium, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Germany, UK, China, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Australia and New Zealand. The Papua New Guinea Directory of Exporters 2010-2011 lists 25 cocoa exporters.

NGIP Agmark, a diversified agri-business, is the largest of these exporters by a wide margin, exporting approximately 70% of PNG’s cocoa crop directly to the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers. NGIP Agmark listed on the Port Moresby stock exchange in July 2009.

Established in late 2006 and funded by the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID), Bris Kanda Incorporated is a rural enterprise development program to promote economic growth in the rural areas of the Huon Gulf District in Morobe Province. The program has funding for another five years and aims to become one of the highest cocoa producers in the country within a year or two.

Meanwhile, local manufacturer Paradise Foods has launched its Queen Emma brand of chocolate made entirely from PNG cocoa (see article here).


In PNG, three products are made from the nut of the coconut palm: copra, copra oil and copra meal. Most of the production is by smallholders and concentrated in New Britain, followed by Madang, New Ireland and Bougainville.

There are two large copra mills operating in Madang and Toboi, outside Rabaul, plus several very small operations producing copra oil.

In 2008, most copra in PNG was processed into copra oil and exported to Europe, by companies such as W R Carpenter (PNG) Ltd and Coconut Oil Production Madang Ltd and Essential Extracts Ltd.

High-value coconut products such as virgin coconut oil, coconut cream, timber and biofuel offer PNG’s industry some longer-term possibilities, if governance and investment strategies can be resolved. A portion of PNG’s 260,000 hectares of coconut palms also needs rehabilitation or replanting.

PNG rubber is sold to Europe, China and Australia

PNG rubber is sold to Europe, China and Australia


Rubber exports totalled around 41 million kina (US$19.2 million) in 2011, with North Fly Rubber in PNG’s remote Western Province a noteworthy producer.

North Fly Rubber is arranged on a cooperative model and is owned by around 3000 rubber-growing families. Growers deliver their cup rubber to a designated collection point in their area where it is transported to the river port of Kiunga. There, it is processed in North Fly Rubber’s factory and converted into a form in which it can be exported to markets such as Europe, China and Australia. There, it is manufactured into pillows, mattresses and other latex products.


Vanilla has been the most lucrative of spice exports to the US, Europe and Indonesia in recent years although it has been subject to dramatic price fluctuations. It requires a move to centralised curing, rather than the village-level curing being undertaken, if it is to prosper. Other spice crops include black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, patchouli and turmeric, plus a range of essential oils.

Amruqa (formerly Pacific Spices), based in East New Britain, has 218 certified organic producers and 1500 conventional farmer suppliers. It opened the first processing plant of its kind to produce oil of vanilla and pure vanilla extract in 2010. Amruqa exports to Australia, the US, Taiwan, Japan and some European countries, cultivates a local market and also sells online. Another exporter in this sector is Port Moresby-based company, Paradise Spices.

There is an increasing demand for beef in pNG. Credit: NBPOL

There is an increasing demand for beef in PNG. Credit: NBPOL


The key commercial livestock in PNG are pigs, chickens and cattle, and livestock contributes 13% of total domestic food production.

Mainland Holdings is PNG’s main chicken producer, selling fresh and frozen birds plus eggs. It expects domestic demand to increase by 25%, driven by economic activities in other sectors. It is investing in chicken sheds and expanding its growers’ network to meet the expected demand.

Ramu Agri Industries is focusing on improving its cattle production while Trukai has established an agricultural division that focuses on cattle farming. Another key poultry producer is Zenag Chicken.

Other crops

About 10% of tea produced in PNG is used locally, with the rest exported to Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, the US and other markets. The only exporter is WR Carpenter and Co, which has five estates. The tea is grown without any chemical pesticides, and around 10% is packed in value-added form.

Between 7000 and 10,000 tonnes of sugar are exported each year, when there is a surplus to domestic needs. NBPOL-owned Ramu Agri Industries is the only commercial cultivator, with 7720 hectares of sugar cane under management. The domestic sugar industry is protected from imports by a tariff of 40% as of early 2011.

First published in Made in PNG 2012


  1. Jacob Wani says

    Government needs to establish cooperatives or Nucleus estate type business that can collate all their produce and export. Farmers are the main loosers in the industry when we have middleman who dont do the hardwork but get the most profit out out it. We need to have farer groups arrange their produce to meet global market standards to enable them to export directly to the international buyer.

  2. Dominic KIU says

    Agriculture is doing fine, in terms of economy of the country. That is very good, Keep that up.

  3. Please give details of major exports of crops produced from 1997 till 2017

  4. “Vanilla has been the most lucrative of spice exports to the US, Europe and Indonesia in recent years although it has been subject to dramatic price fluctuations. It requires a move to centralised curing, rather than the village-level curing being undertaken, if it is to prosper.”
    Sir, you are COMPLEATELY wrong in your in your assessment of the vanilla bean “curing”. To quote your “It requires a move to centralize curing, rather than the village-level curing being undertaken, if it is to prosper.”
    Nothing can be further from the truth. Taking the beans for curing from the village to a centralized location is when the vanilla bean quality starts to deteriorates at every level. When you centralize the “curing” you take away the power to do the curing cycle as nature demands and ONLY the vanilla farmer has the time and the knowledge to do it properly like nature demands and not the way middleman wants. The vanilla bean farmer plants, pollinates, grows and knows WHEN to cut the bean at maturity (when yellow at the tip this is when nature tells you that the bean is ready to harvest NOT WHEN IT IS GREEN) and this is the MOST critical moment in the harvest of the vanilla bean as the vanillin components will be ready for further process. The quality fiasco in Madagascar has been to order the farmer to take down the beans GREEN all in the same day (it takes at least 4 months to mature) and turn them over to the “processors” that are profit oriented and not quality visionaries. The moment you take away the curing of the vanilla bean from the vanilla farmer you start the failure of the vanilla bean industry (this is what is happening right now in PNG). When the “processor” comes into the picture and tries to do the work of the hard working vanilla farmer is when quality starts to go down. (This is what happen in Mexico, Madagascar and now PNG). Vanilla farmers know their job, they understand natures cycle they know when to cut the vanilla bean (yellow at the tip) to maximize it’s natural attributes like vanillin which is a PRESERVATIVE in of itself and this is what gives the aroma and quality to the bean but MORE IMPORTANT it helps preserve the bean from getting mold. So the more mature the bean is (yellow at the tip) the less chance of the bean becoming moldy. If you cut the bean GREEN you will have a lower quality bean because the vanillin has not develop and curing will take longer and the chances of getting MOLD will be greater and so will the losses. Furthermore when you cut the bean at maturity (yellow at the tip) you ONLY need 5 kilos to make 1 kg of cured, when you cut the bean GREEN you need 7 to 7.5 kilos to make 1 kilo of cured beans. So you are taking a 35% to 40% LOSS and even more when you add the loss for lack of vanillin. Also you MUST start the curing cycle where you cut and right after you cut the bean ONE BY ONE when matured (yellow at the tip) and not green in raceme. Nature talks to the vanilla farmer and the vanilla farmer understand mother NATURE better than anyone else and he and HE alone and his family can bring to market fully cured vanilla beans NOT the IGNORANT PROFIT BOUND PROCESSOR. Taking the curing away from the vanilla farmer from the village life will only bring low quality, low prices and will bury the vanilla bean crop so important to the farmer as extra income. Whoever advocates “processing” outside the vanilla home garden, farm or village is person who does NOT CARE about the prosperity of Papua New Guinea. The VANILLA FARMER and he alone understand the cycle taking away any part of the from planting to curing is UNFAIR because you are taking away money from his honest work. Processors only bring greed and misery to the vanilla farmers as they control the prices when they process, yet they invest or risk nothing, they do not plant the vines, they do not pollinate, they do not buy the land, they never loose the crop if the crop fails only the vanilla farmer looses. The “processor” is just an unwelcome parasite. The processor has no place in the industry. However as most of them are exporters this is where they can be helpful to help PNG prosper by demanding that the vanilla bean FARMER bring QUALITY BEANS to market for export this would increase the QUANTITY, QUALITY and PROFIBILITY all across the board for EVERYONE in PNG. The role of the government should be to monitor that the curing is done at the farm, garden, village and that no beans leave the village without bean fully CURED (BLACK). Selling of green beans should be outlaw and confiscation of same immediately whether at the border or in route to processor or market. For PNG vanilla bean industry to be NUMBER ONE in the world you have to let the vanilla FARMER and his FAMILY do the complete vanilla circle from ground to table. Let the “processor” be exporter and everyone will PROSPECT. PNG vanilla industry/farmer has proven to have the capability of crop VOLUME and QUALITY and be N-1 at both world wide. We at Vanilla, Saffron Imports look at PNG vanilla not as a source of low prices but of HIGHEST QUALITY as the vanilla FARMER in PNG has demonstrate harvest after harvest that can deliver the BEST vanilla beans in the WORLD this is proven by the HIGHEST vanillin count when the beans results come back from the laboratory and we prefer PNG over all other and willing to pay higher prices. The government of PNG has to protect the hard work of the PNG vanilla Farmer and his Family if the “processors” want to process beans let them plant their own.
    Juan J. San Mames, President
    Vanilla, Saffron Imports

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