The inside view: Alan McLay


Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Alan McLay provides a personal view of Papua New Guinea’s agricultural potential.

The fertile Markham Valley near Lae is one of PNG's most productive agricultural regions.

The fertile Markham Valley near Lae is one of PNG’s most productive agricultural regions.

While mineral and gas production are travelling very well at the moment, it has long been realised that agriculture is the real future of Papua New Guinea.

Before mining, agriculture provided PNG’s economic backbone, initially with copra, cocoa and rubber plantations but later with smallholder developments. Agriculture is still a major part of the economy and rural people across the nation rely on income from the sale of produce to pay for their basic needs, including the all-important school fees.

In spite of its rich potential, government schemes to provide assistance in the agricultural sector have been largely ineffective. Little extension work has been carried out and smallholders have been left on their own to cope with new crop developments, the onset of diseases and pests, to determine on-planting requirements and marketing and so on.

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Agriculture is still vital for the nation and will be even more important when the mineral developments tail off. While there are still some large estates, most agriculture is carried out by smallholders and nearly all of the rural people’s requirements are still met by the sale of produce. The private sector provides much of the stimulus needed for the sector’s growth, presenting a market for smallholder produce particularly coffee, cocoa, chicken, palm oil, rubber, spices and cattle.

PNG’s Government must use the recent economic boom to find the means to assist the agriculture sector by providing more resources and manpower. Field extension work is essential to help the rural people with methods of planting the best crops, controlling pests and diseases, and marketing the produce.

This article first published in Business Advantage PNG 2011/2012

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