Smart Farmer Program a ‘game-changer’ for Papua New Guinea’s rice farmers


With rice farming expanding in Papua New Guinea, the country’s largest rice supplier, Trukai Industries, is partnering with tertiary institutions to help upskill farmers on the basics of irrigation rice farming.

Smart Farmer program promises to transform local rice farmers into commercial farmers: Credit Trukai

The Smart Farmer program promises to transform local rice farmers into commercial farmers. Credit: Trukai

A part of its community out-reach initiative, Trukai Industries’ two-week Smart Farmer program (SFP), aims to transform local rice farmers into small holder farmers, and finally into semi-commercial and commercial farmers.

Launched in October last year, the program kicked off with a partnership between Trukai and the PNG University of Technology (Unitech) in Lae. Unitech, a long-standing partner with Trukai on numerous projects, has provided eight hectares of land at the University Farm for rice development projects and training on rice farming systems.

Unitech’s Acting Vice Chancellor, Dr Garry Sali, expects the SFP program to help realise their goal of developing ‘world-class technocrats for the real world.’

In addition to expanding PNG’s rice industry, he notes ‘the SFP program is also a win-win for the university, through the promotion of academic and professional collaborative of rice research and training.’

Having signed a joint venture agreement in May, Pacific Adventist University in Port Moresby is the second university to join the program. Fifteen hectares of university land are expected to be in rice by October.

Alan Preston CEO of Trukai Industries: Credit Trukai

Alan Preston CEO of Trukai Industries: Credit Trukai

According to Trukai’s CEO Alan Preston, a third tertiary institution, from Central Province, is expected to join the program in 2025.

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K40 million investment

The program is Trukai’s single largest commitment to crop expansion in PNG, and Preston expects the company to invest K40 million in it over the next decade.

While Trukai previously trained between 50 to 150 farmers annually, Preston now expects the promise of university certification at the end of the program will help attract a lot more farmers to grow rice.

‘Given the [attractive] pay back returns on fruit and vegetables, farmers have not embraced rice as a good option,’ says Preston.

Certification aside, he says the seed, training, access to fertiliser and solar mills offered to farmers under the program, are a gamechanger in helping remove the obstacles to growing rice.

Tenfold growth

Based on the current rate of 500 farmers per annum, Preston says the SFP program could potentially turbocharge farmer participation tenfold to 5,000 over the next five years.

Assuming rice farmers on the SFP program can grow three crops annually, on an average five hectares of land, Preston says it’s conceivable they could collectively grow 90,000 tonnes of rice annually. Based on government estimates that peg annual rice consumption at 350,000 tonnes, he notes that one in four buckets of rice consumed in PNG could be grown through the SFP program.

What this would do, he adds, is introduce domestic supply balance and reduce the country’s reliance on imported product.

‘Consuming all of our resources right now, the SFP program demonstrates the company’s support for local rice farmers and our contribution towards rice development in PNG,’ Preston says.

All farmers can apply

The program is for farmers of all levels, from elementary- to commercial-based farmers. Following their final assessment, the initial 120 farmers who were trained in January, are expected to be certified later this year.

Applications have closed for the second batch for farmers enrolled in the SFP program at Unitech and a third is expected soon.

Assuming the rate of demand for the SFP program continues, Preston expects the cohort of [rice] farmers the company works to grow rapidly.


  1. People just want a job, that’s all. Thank Trukai your never ending commitment to PNG🇵🇬

  2. Thank you Trukai Rice, hopefully there are more partnerships made with UNRE (Papua New Guinea University of Natural Resources and Environment), it would make them an attractive destination for Gr 12 school leavers to go study at and breed the next generation agriculture innovators and businesses in PNG. Kudos to UniTech for always staying a step ahead with all it’s partnerships with the PNG Business Community. Other universities need to take a leaf out of your book.

  3. Asi Meata says

    Very interesting…my family and I have a big portion of land back home in my province (GULF,East Kerema LLG)..I have another project on mind right now..but will come back and inform your team of the outcome at a later date.
    Thank you

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