Western Highlands Province: Papua New Guinea Business Guide


Western Highlands Province’s capital Mount Hagen is the third-largest city in Papua New Guinea, but it has a rural appearance, with its grass huts and terraced gardens where kaukau and other fruit and vegetables are grown in the Wahgi Valley. The people have a reputation for being industrious, goal-oriented and thrifty and they have been significant players in some key industries in PNG, notably: trucking, vehicle hire, taxis and buses, and agriculture.

Mount Hagen market. Credit: Robert Upe

Economic overview

The Western Highlands economy is primarily based on coffee, which is grown on plantations and small-holder blocks. The beans are picked, dried and processed for export. In addition, tea is a major crop that is grown and processed, either for local consumption or export. The province grows over 40 per cent of the country’s Arabica coffee and all of its tea exports, as well as an impressive range of fresh food. Vegetables are grown either for the domestic market, or sold to outlets in Lae and Port Moresby. Much of the produce for the cities has to be flown in, but a major upgrade of the Highlands Highway is aimed at improving the delivery of produce to the capital cities or for export. The province is well suited to agribusiness. It has approximately 1,100 square kilometres of high-potential land, the largest area in any province in the country.

The volcanic soils of the Wahgi, Nebilyer, Baiyer and Jimi valleys are ideal for the cultivation of various crops and about 50 per cent of the land in the province is currently in agricultural use. The Saturday market in Mt Hagen is a focal point for local informal and formal commerce and provides a meeting place for traders from all over the province. All forms of produce are sold as well as pigs, feathers, and even cassowaries.


The Kuk World Heritage Site and Baiyer River Birds Sanctuary are two heritage properties of international significance, which attracts tourists and researchers from all over the world. Rondon Ridge Lodge has abundant birdlife and orchids and there are tours to see the Melpa people and the famed PNG Mudmen. The Kum Caves, about seven kilometres from the city centre, are home to birds and possums. Some of PNG’s best coffee is grown in park-like surroundings at Kofi Cave, which serves highly regarded Banz Kofi. The cafe close to the airport and adjacent to some small craft markets. 
Another option is to play a round of golf at Mt Hagen Golf Club.

Where to stay

  • Rondon Ridge Lodge (pngtours.com), 40 minutes’ drive from Mt Hagen, is part of the Trans Niugini Tours chain. The lodge is perched high in the
hills overlooking Mount Hagen.
  • Two well-regarded hotels in town are the Highlander (coralseahotels.com.pg) and the McRoyal (mcroyalhotelpng.com), both are close to the airport.
  • For basic, no-frills accommodation try Martha’s Retreat (+675 542 2779).

Western Highlands in brief

Province name: Western Highlands

Capital: Mt Hagen

Population: 362,850

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Area: 4,299 square kilometres

Distance from Port Moresby: 514 kilometres.

Getting there: Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Mt Hagen regularly. The flight time is 1 hour.

Sectors: Coffee, tea, fresh vegetables.

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