Data driven: Outspan PNG helps Papua New Guinea farmers reap more from what they sow

Welcome,

Outspan PNG is using big data to help thousands of smallholder cocoa and coffee farmers in Papua New Guinea improve the quality of their produce. Country Manager Basavaraj Y. Mashetty tells Business Advantage PNG it is helping to put the country’s cocoa and cofee on the global map.

Cocoa plant. Credit: Olam International

Outspan PNG, a subsidiary of Olam International, a leading food and agribusiness with over 25,000 customers worldwide, began operations in East New Britain Province in 2000, when it started exporting cocoa beans. Twenty years later, Outspan PNG now operates in eight locations across PNG, has 75 employees and 110 season workers and has expanded its operations to export coffee beans.

‘I believe we have crossed this bridge successfully, having built strong smallholder relationships by offering transparent and fair pricing, improved market access and working closely with them [farmers] on training programs to assist them on increasing yields and productivity in an environmentally soundly manner,’ says Basavaraj Y. Mashetty, Country Manager, PNG Cocoa, Outspan. ‘All the while contributing to the communities where we operate in.’

Outspan PNG is also one of the largest Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa exporters, which has put PNG cocoa on the global map, notes Mashetty.

Technology

As the number of farmers working with Outspan PNG grew, the company had to re-imagine how to collect and analyse information to develop tailored programs for smallholder farmers. But, with limited cellular coverage and low internet capacity in rural areas (where about 85 per cent of PNG’s population lives), the company had to develop a clever solution to communicate with local producers directly.

‘With cocoa, Outspan PNG has distributed about ‘1.1 million cocoa seedlings and nearly 3,400 harvest tools to 4,400 farmers across three provinces.’

The Olam Farmer Information System (OFIS) is a ‘data-rich platform’ that works with smartphones. The platform captures targeted, farm-gate level data (farm size, location, eco-support systems, and economic, social and health infrastructure). Once analysed, the information is used to design personalised long-term plans for farmers and aids in the development of social programs.

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‘Our goal in using OFIS in PNG is to establish data and develop personalised farm management plans for our chain of smallholder farmers,’ Mashetty explains. ‘This will not only improve their livelihoods but also provide customers with real-time information and increased visibility and traceability.’

Smallholder support is key

Basavaraj Masshetty

Basavaraj Mashetty is Country Manager, PNG Cocoa, Outspan. Credit: Olam International

Over the years, Outspan PNG has partnered with organisations to support smallholders, including with the World Bank’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP).

The company also works with six coffee co-operatives in the Eastern Highlands and has ‘distributed over 300,000 coffee seedlings, planted more than 100,000 trees, provided financial literacy training to over 6,000 farmers and distributed tools to 1,400 farmers,’ says Mashetty. With cocoa, Outspan PNG has distributed about ‘1.1 million cocoa seedlings and nearly 3,400 harvest tools to 4,400 farmers across three provinces.’

Outspan has also worked with the Cocoa Board of PNG and the recently established PNG Agriculture Company (PNGAC) through this partnership.

Mashetty says ‘the PNGAC has access to funding, business mentoring and training support from Outspan.’

He says that cocoa farmers have also been trained on good agricultural practices and that Outspan will continue farmer-centric programs in an ‘upcoming partnership with the Asian Development Bank’.

Rising to the challenges of COVID-19

Outspan COVID-19

Practising COVID-19 social distancing. Credit: Olam International

Mashetty explains that the COVID-19 pandemic has minimally affected its operations in PNG, with ‘some limited impact in terms of product arrivals in Q1 2020′.

‘With our engagement in rolling out various [COVID-19] awareness campaigns, the situation has improved and we expect stable arrivals from coffee and cocoa in Q2 2020,’ he says.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Bon says

    Need information on how to order clonal seedlings. Please help.

  2. Maurice Knight says

    Very impressive history that shows innovation and commitment to PNG farmers.

  3. Mary Abau says

    Good to see the move to rural areas for Cocoa small farmers, we are just starting to grow cocoa in Kairuku . we need your help to grow and get more seedlings.appreciate if you can reach us.

  4. Carl Kalwan says

    Cocoa Bossman, an excellent effort in getting our grassroots cocoa farmers and I am Agricultural Department should come in hand with your company,though it’s never too late for us to work. East Sepik Grassroots Cocoa Farmer- Turubu Coastal. Thank you.

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