How to unleash the agriculture potential in Papua New Guinea’s Ramu and Markham valleys


Papua New Guinea’s fertile Markham and Ramu valleys have the potential to become a food basket for the Asia-Pacific region. An International Finance Corporation (IFC) study highlights how this could be achieved.

Centrally located in PNG, near Lae in Morobe Province and with access to the Highlands Highway and the Ramu Highway to Madang Province, the connected Markham and Ramu valleys have potential to become a strong agriculture hub in the Asia-Pacific region, as highlighted by a study conducted recently by the IFC, with support from the Australian–New Zealand PNG Partnership.

Together, these regions have over one million hectares of land and roughly 400,000 hectares identified in the study as ‘easily usable for agricultural purposes.’

Cassava, sugarcane, maize, palm oil, pasture and eucalyptus, among many other crops, can be successfully grown in the area, according to the study.

‘We believe that, over the next 10 years, the cost related to lack of infrastructure will be reduced and hopefully crops produced in PNG will be globally more competitive.’

What’s more, the valleys also appear to be have some protection from expected global climate change.

The analysis of flooding areas, soil and climate undertaken by the IFC and its partners suggested that the impacts of climate change could be less taxing for them than other areas in the region, explains Christian Reichel, IFC’s Operations Officer in PNG.

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‘Globally, climate change will affect a lot of production areas. Demand for animal pasture is still growing, so someone needs to fill the gaps. PNG, with its unique location between Australia and New Zealand and South East Asia, can be a key partner to fill this gap,’ says Reichel.

Tackling the challenges

The IFC’s Christian Reichel. Credit:  Peter Rae/IFC

While infrastructure, land ownership, labour, access to markets and financing are among the key barriers to fully developing the valleys, Reichel says there is now a lot of support available for potential investors.

‘There are many development partners [for example, the World Bank, PHAMA Plus, the European Investment Bank, the Asian Development Bank and, of course, the IFC] strongly supporting agriculture development [in the region], either through infrastructure development or agriculture support services,’ says Reichel.

He explains that the development partners are ‘excellent to exchange ideas and information because they can help you to connect with the right people and assist you in your investment.’

NGOs and grassroots organisations, on the other hand, can assist with connections to the villages, helping investors understand the needs of the community, how to support small local farmers and open a dialogue with landowners.

Several agribusinesses, including leading players such as Ramu Agri Industries and Mainland Holdings, are already settled in the region and are potential partners.

Infrastructure improvements

The potential for sugar cane, cassava, pasture and maize in the Ramu and Markham valleys is marked by the shaded areas on these maps. Credit: IFC

Improving infrastructure is also likely to attract new investors in the area.

The advent of planned Wafi-Golpu copper-gold mine project – a joint venture between mining companies Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining – is likely to attack as a trigger for major infrastructure improvements.

Located in the southern part of the valley system, the Wafi-Golpu Joint Venture is committed to supporting the communities living near the mine through agriculture, says Reichel.

That is why it has plans to build a 32km access road connecting the mine to the Highlands Highland. This road, he explains, will open up the area for new investment as the proposed road will be vital to aid in the distribution of agricultural produce.

Other infrastructure projects are also trying to lower transportation costs in PNG, which according to Reichel, is currently some of the highest in the world.

The Asian Development Bank is focusing on the Highlands Highway, the World Bank on the Ramu Highway, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is involved in the upgrading of Lae’s Nadzab Airport, while other development partners working on rural electrifications projects.

‘We believe that over the next 10 years the cost related to lack of infrastructure will be reduced and hopefully crops produced in PNG will be globally more competitive,’ says Reichel.


  1. Naida Noel says

    This update is very interesting to me because I believe that is the way to go. Thankyou IFC for that.

  2. Can I have a copy of the full report on agribusiness in Markham and ramu valleys? ?

  3. I would love to see Locals are ‘penned’ as Development Partners as well. They should be identified in every publication, news about the area as they are as important as developing the area as a food hub. They should not be mentioned ‘during the process’ but “initial Development partners” Money and know-how can come from outside but ownership of land rests with Locals.

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