The brand-new Kuk chips factory in the Highlands has begun processing locally grown potatoes into frozen French fries, as part of an ambitious import substitution plan to provide a market for thousands of local farmers, cut the price of frozen foods and save valuable foreign currency.
The Highlands Kuk chips is a 50:50 partnership between the Southern Highlands Provincial Government (SHPG) and the agri-business developer, Innovative Agro Industry (IAI).
Potato varieties used for French Fries need to have a higher dry matter content and reduced sugar levels and can be stored for a longer period.
Innovative Agro Industry (the developer and operator of the Kuk Chips factory), in a cooperation with SHP Provincial Government and FPDA, are working to expand the potato growing in the Highlands, now that a market is created.
Ilan Weiss, Chairman and Executive Director of Innovative Agro Industry, said: “The local verities E2 and Sequoia are most suitable for Kuk Chips production. The factory requires five (5) full containers of raw potatoes each week. These will be washed, peeled, cut, individually frozen and packed to be distributed all over the country – it is a 100 percent PNG made product.”
Since October 2019, the company is operating a buying point in the Mt Hagen market, buying potatoes directly from local farmers.
Weiss added: “We buy only potatoes that are suitable in size and quality. We are buying almost 4 tons daily at the Hagen buying point, we also buy in Enga through our farm in Sirunki and directly at the factory in Pangia. It’s a lot but not enough.
“We opened this buying point so farmers have an easier access to market. Not all farmers can reach Pangia where the factory is located, some find it easier to arrive to Hagen, so we opened a buying point there.”
The Kuk chips are sold to retailers in all parts of the country and other institutional buyers like caterers, hotels, restaurants and to small shops and kai bars in the nations’ cities and towns.