O’Neill said becoming self-sufficient in rice production is a matter of high national importance.
“We have a desire to grow more rice in our country and we need to work hard at this,” he said after the issue was raised in Parliament today.
“As a country we rely too much on rice imports from Australia and from Asia that is sold in Papua New Guinea.
“We want to have a large scale and commercially viable rice production sector in our country that will meet the demands of our people.
“Maintaining food security is of great importance for all countries around the world and Papua New Guinea must not be dependent on rice imports.
“We must overcome shortages and be self- sufficient as is the situation in many Asian countries.”
O'Neill said the key element in advancing rice production is for rice importers to invest in the local industry.
“We have had enough experimenting, we want to grow rice in Papua New Guinea now, and we will create an environment where rice will be grown here,” the Prime Minister said.
“We have a quota system in our country and this is being managed by the Department of Agriculture.
“Cabinet has not made a firm decision on any revision to the quota system but it is clear what must be done.
“Rice companies must know that if they do not grow rice in our country you will not get quota.
“If these companies do not invest in rice production they will not get a quota.
“We are developing a fair and level playing field in which we can have a competitive rice production industry.”
The Prime Minister further rejected claims by members of the Opposition that there would be a steep increase in the price of rice.
“The price of rice is controlled and prices will not rise as high as the opposition claims,” PM O’Neill said.
“Rice is a price controlled item and this is undertaken in a careful manner.”
Picture: Rice farming in Kimbe, WNBP