Partial lifting of ban on imported vegetables to Papua New Guinea welcomed but calls for more production assistance


Business welcomes the Agriculture Minister’s decision to temporarily lift a ban on some imported vegetables, but calls for more government support to lift production—and more consultation.

Shortages lead to price hikes. Credit: The Loop

Shortages lead to price hikes. Credit: The Loop

Last week, Agriculture Minister Tommy Tomscoll varied a ban imposed in August on imported fresh fruit and vegetables in August, saying onions, tomatoes and capsicum would be allowed into the country―but only from Queensland in Australia.

The August list of banned fruit and vegetable imports included Irish potatoes, bulb onions, round cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, capsicum, pumpkins, peas, zucchini, eggplant, pak choi (Chinese cabbage), French beans, lettuce and celery.

Blaming the drought, Tomscoll said a shortage of some vegetables saw prices soar: onions, for example, were being sold for K1.50 each and as high as K10 each. Tomscoll admitted tomatoes from the hydroponic farms at 9 Mile outside Port Moresby and Sogeri were selling for as high as K30 per kg.

Other shortages

Agriculture Minister, Tommy Tomscoll. Credit: PNG Loop

Agriculture Minister, Tommy Tomscoll. Credit: PNG Loop

The Chief Executive Officer of retailer,  RH Trading, Nathan Ho, has told Business Advantage PNG the shortage goes beyond the three vegetables Tomscoll has now exempted from the ban.

He says there is a shortage of eggplant, capsicums, carrots, lettuce, celery, and prices are soaring. He says there are plenty of cabbages, beans and broccoli.

He agrees with a ban on importing vegetables, but says it only works if there is enough local supplies.

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‘The ban is a good thing if there is sufficient supply of vegetables, but I don’t have enough to supply the demand, because there is not enough cool storage for produce.’

He says although the drought is one reason for the shortage, the lack of PNG’s farmers’ technical skills means they are unable to boost supplies.

He says the government needs to provide more training and technical assistance to farmers.


But not everyone agrees with the partial lifting of the ban.

Highlands Farmers and Settlers Association President, Wilson Thompson, says the lifting of the ban will discourage farmers.

Chimbu farmer, Tobby Sundu, has told The National that bulb onion farmers in the province have supplies ‘rotting’ in warehouses, waiting for buyers. He added there was no support for farmers to bring their produce to market.

Thompson also says the Government should help with better roads, transportation and providing an accessible market for farmers to sell their produce.


Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Officer, David Conn, said the ban was a fiasco, and has called on the National Government to have public consultation before making similar decisions.

‘Nobody flagged the idea in the public domain for general comment. Nobody talked to the farmers in drought stricken areas if they would be able to take up the shortfall. Nobody talked to the supermarkets to find out if they reckoned there was local capacity to take up the slack,’ he said.


  1. Also in Rabaul, Kavieng, Buka, Alotau, Kimbe etc. how do Highland Onions and vegetables get to us?!! Will the government subsidise the cost for transport from the Highlands to Lae and then the shipping costs from Lae to Rabaul? (Or Kimbe, Kavieng or Buka) Also, will the produce be in a sellable condition by the time it gets from the Highlands to Rabaul? Very unlikely.

  2. The Highlands farmers complain, problem is little of their produce makes it to POM and when it does often is in very poor condition. Just another poorly thought out government decision.

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