Posts Categorized: Agriculture

Mandarin season hits the markets

By Pauline Karalus

805-arawa-market-mandarin Mandarins at the Arawa Market. Photo by Junior Karatapi

Bougainville is well known for its cash crops, unique fruits and nuts cultivated on the fertile soils of the island. Cash crops such as cocoa and coconut remain the main source of income for both subsistence and working class people.

Across the region, fruit farming is being undertaken more than ever before. Village mothers have now had the taste of income generation through marketing of garden produce at the local markets. Some are able to earn K500 per day from marketing, a great deal compared to waiting for fortnightly pay from their working husbands.

Driving along the trunk road, from Buka to Arawa and then on to Buin, the sights of fresh produce along the road gets the drivers’ attention, and so several stops are made at these road-side stalls to purchase fruits to beat off the thirst or hunger for these delicious, mouth-watering produce.

Arawa market is one of the richest markets you will ever find on your journey within Bougainville and is stunning with the many varieties of healthy garden produce on display on the benches.

Large bundles of peanuts, either cooked or raw, go for K1 each. Juicy watermelons, sphere-shaped or oval shaped of various sizes get sold at reasonable prices.

Both cooked and raw food is sold in the market as well. Fresh greens from places like Panguna add color to the market look and raw kaukau packed in baskets woven from coconut leaves go for K10 each.

The K5 pack of banana chips and fried fish are my personal favorite. When travelling along the Buka to Buin road, that one rest stop at Arawa is just something I appreciate so much.

During each specific fruit’s season, the market gets filled by that particular fruit thus competition in sales forces the price to reduce, making sure they sell most of their produce before the market gets locked up.

From May the market was filled with the varieties of Mandarin of varying sizes and prices with large heaps or bundles going for K2 each.

These mothers arrive with baskets of juicy Mandarin fruits from nearby villages within Central Bougainville. These include the Wakunais from Central Bougainville and the Wisais from Buin as well.

Though they sell them in groups they still do make money from the sales because back at the village these fruit trees are in abundance. Those intended for market sales are left untouched by the family members. Those that are marked for eating remain to be continuously harvested for the family to have.

The mandarin season continues until the Christmas holidays and for those Bougainvilleans living away from the province, seeing pictures of the large juicy fruits on Facebook will make you homesick.

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Local company works to improve copra quality

By Ishmael Palipal

Officers from KIK and DPI with Tambolema Copra Exporters conducting awareness on the best ways of producing Export Quality Copra in NumaNuma, Wakunai. Photo courtesy of New Dawn FM Officers from KIK and DPI with Tambolema Copra Exporters conducting awareness on the best ways of producing Export Quality Copra in NumaNuma, Wakunai. Photo courtesy of New Dawn FM

Copra is the backbone of many Bougainvilleans, a commodity that has been financing majority of the population that lives along the flatlands, especially the coastlines of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Many of the local farmers, however, have not had the knowledge to properly prepare copra to the quality required for international exports.

To help them achieve that, a local company, Tambolema Copra Exports, has recently been carrying out awareness throughout the region.

The company is the first local copra exporter that is carrying out awareness, workshops and training to the locals, with the aim of organizing and supporting these local suppliers to produce best quality products.

Copra is AROB’s backbone. Pictured are boat loads of copra waiting to be loaded onto a truck. Copra is AROB’s backbone. Pictured are boat loads of copra waiting to be loaded onto a truck.

The company apart from trainings also aims to support improve the local copra dryers, so that high quality can be achieved.

The company support to the locals especially from the Central Bougainville was commended by many locals who were privileged to attend these trainings or workshops that was conducted in partnership with the Department of Primary Industry (DPI) and Kokonas Indastri Koporetion (KIK).

KIK is a regulating body that makes sure exporters maintain top quality and quantity for exporting to overseas buyers. It works in support of Tambolema Copra Exporters in order to help the locals.

Tambolema also is up-skilling the locals because they believe that with the improve quality of dried copra, the quality export overseas will benefit the people and support the economic recovery program of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

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Supply and quality drive cocoa price fluctuations in Buin

By Benjamin Heriberth Noibio

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Fluctuating cocoa prices are creating uncertainty amongst farmers in Buin District.

Buin is the widest part of Bougainville Island and most of the cocoa trees and plantations om autonomous region were found in this area.

About a month ago the price of cocoa in Buin spiked, rising from K400/bag to K600/bag, causing local farmers to earn a good amount of money and see a significant outcome of their hard work.

The two main cocoa buyers in Buin are Bernard Kepa, a local business man, and Agmark, the oldest cocoa buyer. With a notable increase in supply of cocoa, the two buyers have lowered their prices, first to K500/bag then K490/bag, which upset farmers throughout Buin.

Farmers are now worried and some have hesitated to bring dried cocoa beans to Buin and instead are loading trucks destined for Arawa, where they hope to find a higher price.

In Arawa, the current price is K535/bag and farmers have rushed all the way from Buin to sell their cocoa bags.

The most affected farmers were from the mountains of Buin, who are the most recent to start drying cocoa as they have a later season. The season starts from the coast and then reaches the mountains last. Farmers from the mountains were just about to sell their first dried bags, but the price drop has left them fuming.

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“The drop in the price may have couple of reasons,” said Konnou Council of Elders chairman Mr Masiu.

Mr Masiu stated that the cocoa sheds in Buin were full last week and they are booking personal houses to store the bags; that might be one of the reasons.

The buyers may also have dropped their prices to reflect a lack of quality in the cocoa market.

The two major cocoa byers have advised local farmers to sell their best quality product to maintain the price. Low quality cocoa beans may cause inconvenience, which makes the product less valuable to the buyers.

 

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Brave Wendy’s pineapple patch

By Pauline Karalus

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Gwendalyne Umake (or Wendy for short), having being the first born in a family of seven children, was obliged to stay home and help her mum take care of her younger siblings. She never had the chance to continue her education at the local primary school after she finished elementary.

Daily chores began in the morning with the sound of scraping coconut to prepare breakfast and lunch for her little ones and ended in the evening with the preparation of dinner for the whole family. She grew up as expected by the elders.

At the age of 18 she was handed in for marriage to a boy from another clan. Wendy was ready to face reality, but life didn’t turn out as expected.

She was often brutally physically abused by her cruel husband and it came to the breaking point where she finally decided she couldn’t carry on with the arranged marriage anymore and bravely took off to her parents.

Soon she eloped away with the boy she had fallen in love with during her teenage years. At her new home, she was happy confident that her new marriage would work out but she was worried about how she would support her family financially due to the fact that she has never been to school.

At this time Wendy questioned herself and whether she was good enough to become the mother she had always dreamt of being. Questions popped up in her head; questions she never had answers for.

She couldn’t go back to school again, for it was too late and she now had too many responsibilities. Her main focus had to be on providing the needs for her new and little, but soon to grow, family.

Wendy had so much love for gardening. She would plant new food crops she would get from relatives who themselves got them from places within the province they would travel to.

Her garden never ran out of vegetables and fruits. The love of gardening soon gave her insights on accomplishing things that had seemed impossible.

Eventually she decided to turn one of her husband’s oldest cocoa blocks into a pineapple block. She suggested the idea to her husband who got motivated in helping his loving wife do what she thought was best for her and their family as a whole.

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The following day her husband had to load pineapple suckers in a wheelbarrow and take them to the planting grounds. Wendy planted all the suckers and filled up the whole block with the help of her husband in only one week.

Cleaning, weeding and waiting for them to bear fruits the following year seemed to be a very short period of time as she was always busy with work to do. Her pigs to be fed, laundry to be done, new gardens to be made and more.

The Ples Meri now racks money from the pineapple plantation she made some years back. There is really not very good market for it back at Buin, however, she finds transport for her fruits to be taken to Buka and be sold.

When there isn’t any transport available, the ripe fruits are either thrown away to the pigs or her relatives from far come and gather as much as they like and go.

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Copra price rise good for local coconut farmers

By Ishmael Palipal

 

Trucks line up to sell their copra in front of Buka wharf Trucks line up to sell their copra in front of Buka wharf

The rising copra price has been welcomed by many coconut farmers from Buka Island and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville as a whole.

Copra buyers in Buka are testing different marketing techniques to get more copra sellers. The copra buyers are trying to attract customers through special prices and promotions, such as rebates to farmers by the end of the year if they provide original receipts or special prices for those who sell 30 or more copra bags.

The rising price has also resulted in long queues of cars and trucks made by local farmers carrying loads of copra from around Bougainville. The trucks and cars have being lining in front of Buka Pristine 101 copra mill gate towards the  another Buka wharf gate in front of Buka Police Station.

One coconut farmer from Malasang, Buka Island, stated that the rise in price is a relief for hard working farmers.

Copra making is one of the hardest cash crop production processes and it can take a person a person about one or two weeks of continuous work to put the coconut in for drying in the copra drier. This is a very lengthy process that many villagers go through in order to earn income.

The process of making copra starts with clearing the bush under coconut trees, if coconut trees are overgrown with bushes or grass, then the coconuts are collected into groups and they are then husked one by one. Some people go straight to breaking and removing the coconut meat inside without husking, but this also depends mostly on the size of wire used to dry the coconut meat.

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After husking the coconut skin, the next process is to break or cut open the coconut in the middle, remove water and then undertaking the laborious job of carrying the cut coconuts to the drier.

Wood must then be found to make a fire to dry the coconuts or, alternatively, many people use the previously removed coconut shell to dry their coconut.

The fire must be watched after it is lit in case fire can catch through coconut oil drifting or small leftover coconut husk. After some time the coconut on the top and bottom must be rotated to ensure it is all dried well.

This can take between two and three days depending on the amount of coconut to be dried.

After the coconuts are dried, the next part is the separating of the meat from the coconut shell. Once the shell is removed, the next and final step is to put them into copra sacks and compact them into certain kilograms, ready for sale.

I have experienced the toughness of making copra myself.  If the price is low and you are making copra, you will sweat more and earn less, but the increase in price has been good for the farmers because their hard work will be rewarded more.

One person alone cannot do all this work, it takes the effort of a whole community, unless one is very experienced.

 

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Cocoa the backbone for enterprise in South Nasioi

770-cocoa-tree-nasioiBy Gideon Davika

South Nasioi constituency is one of the areas in Kieta district that is a major producer of cocoa for Bougainville.

There are a good number of businessmen who are emerging out from South Nasioi who are bringing back much needed services to the community to meet the basic needs and wants for the locals.

Most of the entrepreneurs within the constituency have a history of once being cocoa growers and have cocoa plantations as the back bone, which supports them towards improving their other small businesses.

One of the businessmen, by the name of Carney, has a wholesale business back in the village and has PMV trucks which operate from South Nasioi to Arawa.

770-cocoa-deliveryHe started his business from a small financial capital which he got from harvesting cocoa from his cocoa plantation.

Carney said that his cocoa plantation has helped him a lot to extend his business from a small trade to a wholesale which supplies cargoes to other small trade stores within the constituency.

Eeko is also another family business that was also started in a similar manner. The company has retail, wholesale and a hardware stores which supply building materials and variety of other hardware goods.

One of the small trade store owner by the name of Vincent Daudee said that local businesses with wholesale stores have made it easier for them to get goods, which they buy from Arawa. He said that the prices are similar to the wholesalers in Arawa and the cost is ultimately cheaper because delivery of the cargo is free.

770-cocoa-treeThere are many cocoa farmers in South Nasioi who harvest huge quantities of cocoa. When the price is good these farmers can as much as K10,000 from dry beans, which they sell it to the local buyers. While some reinvest, most keep the money and others concentrate on such things as building their homes and buying stuff for their families.

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Panguna people cash cropping at east coast plantations

By Leonard Fong Roka

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More people from Panguna are now purchasing land blocks in the east coast corridor of Bougainville, stretching from the Buin District in South Bougainville to Tinputz District in the northern region.

Nearly all these people are moving off to grow cash crops, especially cocoa and food gardening, as a source of income.

“Not a single village in Panguna can be left out if one searches the origins of people now cash cropping in the many pre-crisis cocoa and copra plantations,” said Tumpusiong man Francis Batana.

“There are people from all the villages in Panguna planting cocoa and gardening along the coast.

“In the process many are also marrying into those coastal communities.”

Francis Batana took up a block of land at the old Kuruvina Plantation in 2012. He and his family have built themselves a living hut and spent most of their time there, returning home every weekend.

“Gold panning and its monetary value was shrinking here,” Batana said, “thus I left for Kuruvina in 2012, following other Panguna men who attained land blocks earlier”

“My cocoa trees are now ready to bare fruits and I will reap what I did sow.”

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People from Panguna, using little they earned from alluvial gold panning and other commercial activities especially the now gone scrap metal industry, have ventured into getting land blocks in the hot coastal areas.

“Cocoa grows more healthily down there than here in Tumpusiong and the rest of the Panguna District,” Batana continued.

“Many people were there when I arrived and still more people are coming after me.”

Panguna people can now be found in the Wisai area of Buin District and they are now also buying land blocks in Tinputz District. All plantations especially Arikua, Kuruvina, Tenakau and so on in the Wakunai District have a man from the Panguna District sweating in his block.

“Most of these plantations, left behind by owners, were subject to dereliction and overgrown by bush thus local customary landowners who take possession of them sell small blocks to us, “ Batana said, “so we are now reviving them slowly.”

Nearly all land block owners from Panguna hire vehicles to bring their garden produce for selling at home in Panguna. This development is now another big step forward for the Panguna people who lack farm land and rely on market food and vegetables for their sustenance.

“Those of us at the actual mine site in Panguna have no agrarian land,” Martin Nakara, a PMV truck owner from Guava Village and land block owner in Arikua said.

“So I have a block of land there for cocoa and food gardening.

“I am working Monday to Friday driving passengers from Panguna to Arawa and back. In the afternoon of Friday I and my family go back to the block to garden and work in our cocoa plot throughout Saturday. On Sunday we drive throughout the Panguna mine site and down the Tumpusiong Valley selling baskets of sweet potato and vegetables to the public.”

Martin Nakara’s charges K20 to transport land block owners and their garden produce from the blocks to Panguna every weekend. Most Panguna people employ his truck to travel and ferry goods.

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Copra price spikes in Buka

By Benjamin Heriberth Noibio

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Local farmers in the northern region are more than happy to sell copra in Buka town as prices increase dramatically.

With the current demand individuals are able to sell more than a bag every fortnight and the price, which had only been K1/kg has risen by 40 percent.

Farmers can’t wait any longer to sell their copra bags in town and those who live or own the old coconut plantations are benefiting more than those up in the mountains.

People in Wakunai, Tinputz and Selau-Suir sees this as an opportunity to earn money as a substitute to cocoa, which recently has been affected by the cocoa pod borer.

In Selau-Suir and Tinputz, a family could buy a rice bale and either kids or young adults could collect the number of dry coconuts required to exchange for packets of rice in one evening. This is becoming a tradition encouraged by the rising of the prices across North Bougainville and Buka town.

“The process which starts from collecting coconut to sacking them could take approximately three days to complete,” said Neil Simon.

He said that the hardest part is husking the nuts and transporting them to the dryer, after this everything is finalised and ready to be sold.

Students who owe high school or secondary school fees are fortunate to be able to spend their break making copra before school starts.

Local farmers rush to Buka town every Friday to sell their the fruits of their hard work; however it is a challenge, especially to the young adults to use their earnings wisely due to the fact that the price may be lowered as quantity increases in the coming months.

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Support facility to improve commodity output

By Ishmael Palipal

People listen to the speeches at the CSF launch ceremony. People listen to the speeches at the CSF launch ceremony.

The Commodity Support Facility, an initiative of the Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand governments, has been launched to help the people of Bougainville make the most of their hard work and abundant natural resources that they are blessed with.

The project aims at driving the economic development forward through supporting the primary producers to boost output, improve quality and gain better market access. It engages the private sector, encourages innovation and will create income earning opportunities for women and young people.

The launch was carried out on Thursday 17 of March at Bel Isi Park in Buka and was attended by President Dr John Momis and some of his cabinet ministers, PNG representative Mr John Avira, Councilor Rob Hilton representing Australian government and New Zealand High Commissioner Ms Cathleen Pias – representing New Zealand government.

Speaking at the event, Mr Rob Hilton indicated that the launch signified the start of one of the biggest agricultural projects in Bougainville.

As it was described during the launching by representatives from the four governments, the first phase of the project will be focused on the Bougainville’s biggest cash crop, cocoa, on which around 90 per cent of the Bougainville’s population depends.

The targeted support through this towards cocoa production is focused on lifting production and quality, and also to secure better market access for sellers. Then in time it will expand to other ABG prioritized sectors such as coconut, palm oil, cattle, fisheries and seaweed farming.

The ABG President, Chief Dr John Momis, stated that cocoa is the first commodity to be affected, but it’s not only cocoa that this project will focus on but other commodities and industries such as tourism. He also assured the people that this will put Bougainville into another stage to move towards a referendum.

Flag raising was conducted to signify the start of the ceremony at Bel Isi Park in Buka. Flag raising was conducted to signify the start of the ceremony at Bel Isi Park in Buka.

The project will be jointly administered by the Bougainville Primary Industry and Marine Resources, which will oversee also quarantine and inspection; ensuring high-quality standards are established and maintained.

The launching of CSF was ended with a signing of agreement between the partners that will ensure that the project is support by all partners to help Bougainville’s future grow.

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Big gains possible for Bougainville cocoa farmers

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Bougainville cocoa farmers could comfortably triple their production by using the right planting materials and improving their management practices, according to a leading agribusiness specialist.

Agricultural consultant David Anderson has conducted an Australian Aid funded diagnosis of Bougainville’s cocoa industry, together with the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Department of Primary Industries, which seeks to boost output and lift quality at every stage of production. He’s been in Bougainville talking to hundreds of cocoa industry stakeholders – from farmers, to nurserymen, fermenters, buyers, exporters and ABG ministers.

The Cocoa Value Chain Diagnosis is part of a wider strategy to improve the productivity and profitability of key agricultural sectors through the K7 million per year Commodity Support Facility (CSF). The CSF will engage the private sector, encourage innovation and create income-earning opportunities for women and young people.

Mr Anderson said there was a range of factors affecting the autonomous region’s cocoa production, including difficulties in accessing quality hybrids, unmet demand for technical assistance and poor management of the cocoa pod borer.

He said if constraints on the industry were addressed, Bougainville cocoa farmers could substantially increase their production.

“I think they can go from about 200-500kg per hectare, to an average of 1500kg per hectare,” Mr Anderson said.

“But the genetic potential of the clones that are being provided to farmers is even higher; up to 2000kg or even 3000kg a hectare.

“With very good agricultural practices, very good post-harvest management, people can produce even six times what they are currently producing today. So there is tremendous opportunity for increasing household income.”

The CSF, which commences operations later this month, is an initiative of the Governance Implementation Fund, chaired by the Autonomous Bougainville and Papua New Guinea Governments, and supported by Australia and New Zealand.

ABG Primary Industries Minister Nicholas Daku said: “As the Minister responsible for the Department of Primary Industry, I am really happy with the work put into strengthening the cocoa value chain in Bougainville.

“The initiative by the ABG, in partnership with the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government and other development partners, will certainly assist many farmers located throughout rural Bougainville.”

The Australian High Commission’s James Marshall said cocoa was a crucial industry for the autonomous region.

“Around two thirds of the people of Bougainville rely on agriculture, particularly cocoa, for their income,” Mr Marshall said.

“So this is an opportunity for a really inclusive and widespread economic development initiative which will put money into people’s pockets.

“It’s also an opportunity, because it is so widespread, for the ABG to raise significant revenue over the long-term.”

Mr Anderson said while Bougainville’s cocoa farmers were struggling, they were well aware of the challenges they faced and how they could begin to address them.

“Everybody seemed to be very knowledgeable and articulate in terms of expressing what their issues were, in relation to improving the cocoa value chain,” he said.

“It was some very good feedback from those people on what the issue are and what some of the solutions might be.”

Prior to the Bougainville Crisis, the now-autonomous region exported about 30,000 tonnes of cocoa – the highest of any Papua New Guinean province. That fell to just a few thousand tonnes during the Crisis.

Production had recovered to about 26,000 tonnes by 2009, when the cocoa pod borer hit the industry driving production down to about 13,000 tonnes today.

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