Summit must focus on rural farmers: Group

Community advocacy group Act Now! is calling for the National Agriculture Summit to focus on assisting rural farmers and not foreign-owned companies.

The organisation made the call on its website recently, urging the summit to focus on the estimated three million rural farmers in the country.

This follows the recent announcement of the event by Minister for Agriculture, Benny Allan.

Author Eddie Tanago states that the summit must promote the expansion of industrial agriculture, which is driven by outsiders who want to dispose local farmers and exploit workers.

“Our experience as a nation is that we have all seen the serious negative impacts of the recent SABL land grab and illegal logging and the damage the oil palm industry does.

“It is of great concern to see the former Lands Minister, who oversaw 5 years of government inaction on the illegal SABL land grab, associated illegal logging and the unlawful encroachment of oil palm onto customary land, is now the minister in charge of agriculture,” stated Tanago.

“The impending climate crisis, our population explosion and lifestyle disease epidemic that can all cause so much suffering can be mitigated if the government supports rural farmers to stay in control of customary land. 

“If the government wants to unlock the power of agriculture to grow the economy, it must do so by supporting rural farmers and ensuring they are not displaced from their land by outsiders. 

“Mr Allan must not be allowed to use agriculture as an excuse to grab more land on behalf of foreign companies and destroy more livelihoods,” added Tanago.

During the announcement, Minister Allan said the Summit expects to strengthen partnerships with the public and private sector to grow the industry.

The partnerships include financiers, investors and key state institutions to develop a roadmap for the agriculture in PNG.

Meanwhile, Tanago says the Government must focus on improving extension services and better infrastructure.

He said the agriculture sector is a K40 billion industry, far larger than the foreign-owned export economy the government obsesses over.

“Despite the size of this rural economy, and the fact it supports 7 million people, the last National Agriculture Survey was done in 1963 and the most recent agriculture development plan was 2009-11; extension services are almost non-existent and the transport infrastructure is a disgrace,” Tanago said.

The Summit is scheduled for November 20 to 22 with the theme 'Unlocking the Economic Power of Agriculture to Sustainably Grow our Economy’.

(Picture: BeanScene Magazine)

Cedric Patjole