Morobe Province: Papua New Guinea Business Guide


Morobe is Papua New Guinea’s most populous province and the gateway to the interior of the country.

The ‘Niugini Coast’ at Lae Port. Credit: Steamships

It boasts a wide variety of vegetation, flora and fauna, landscape, topography, cultures, history and archaeological background. The capital, Lae, is the country’s second-biggest urban centre and industrial hub, as well as a major seaport. Once a tiny mission station before the 1920’s gold rush at Wau, Lae now is the gateway to the densely populated Highlands region.

Economic overview

Lae is the industrial capital of PNG, with a thriving business community across several industries, including manufacturing, fisheries, mining, agriculture and distribution/logistics. The city is PNG’s manufacturing and industrial hub—both domestic and international companies operate in the city—and the sector employs approximately a quarter of the formal workforce. PNG is a major player in the world tuna trade. Average annual exports are more than 580,000 tonnes. About 12-17 per cent of the world’s tuna catch is caught in PNG’s 2.4 million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone, which equates to K215 million of export income for the industry. Much of the catch is managed from Lae, and the city is set to become the South Pacific’s main fish processing centre, with more than four processing plants currently in operation and another three planned. The PNG Government moving to develop a dedicated fisheries wharf a short distance east of Lae, which will cater for the export of the projected increase of canned tuna products, as well as to handle further fishing fleets.

In agribusiness, cocoa production in Morobe Province has risen in recent years from virtually nothing to being one of the highest in the nation. The two main chicken producers in PNG, which sell fresh and frozen birds, plus eggs, are both based in Lae; there is substantial investment planned to improve processing plants. PNG’s main cattle producer, which generates more than 1400 tonnes of beef per year, is based in Lae. The nation’s single commercial sugar producer, and its biggest palm oil producer, are also both managed from Lae.

On the mining side, the gold and silver mine at Hidden Valley in the Wau-Bulolo District has two separate open-pit mines that feed a 4 million tonnes per annum into a processing plant. The expected mine life is 2024, but there are opportunities for expansion. The largest prospective mine is the Wafi-Golpu mine, located in the Mumeng District, which is considered to be a world class copper-gold-silver mine site. The decision on investment is expected to be made in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Several logistic and transportation companies are based out of Lae. The city is connected along the Okuk (Highlands) Highway to the seven Highland provinces, which produce the majority of PNG’s coffee. The Lae seaport contributes in excess of 60 per cent of PNG’s movement of imports and exports, which makes it one of the busiest in the Pacific region. Lae’s Nadzab Airport was flagged for redevelopment in the 2019 National Budget and work commenced in 2020.


The province includes the bio-diverse Huon Peninsula, the Markham Valley and Delta, and coastal areas extending into the Bismarck Sea. World War II was fought intensely on its land and waters. Over 100 languages are spoken, including pidgin German mixed with the native language – reflecting the province’s history as German colony. Morobe boasts mountains and lush rainforests filled with butterflies, orchids and tropical birds. The Huon Gulf provides excellent fishing and diving and there are good reefs around the coastal town of Finschhafen, Salamaua and the Siassi Islands. Every October, there is the Morobe Provincial Agricultural Show (, held in Lae since 1959, which showcases agricultural produce, commercial products and cultural activities. The Rainforest Habitat is another attraction. Situated on 3000 square metres of rainforest with a lake, raised walkways, and beautiful flowers, the habitat houses the largest variety of birds of paradise kept anywhere in the world. The outer towns of Wau and Bulolo offer bird and butterfly watching, and the tiny isthmus of Salamaua, which has snorkelling and swimming, is about an hour from Lae by boat.

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Where to stay

Morobe Province in brief

Province name: Morobe

Capital: Lae

Population: 674,810

Area: 33,705 square kilometres

Distance from Port Moresby: 307 kilometres.

Getting there: Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Lae regularly. The flight time is 45 minutes.

Sectors: manufacturing, fisheries, mining, agriculture and distribution/logistics.

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