Papua New Guinea has expended a whopping K341 million in 2019 alone to overseas countries for imported meat products while its nine cattle ranches, five abattoirs, and various piggeries lie in ruins and face the threat of being overtaken by squatters.
Quoting the 2019 figure as an example, Prime Minister Hon. James Marape said if Papua New Guineans can spend this kind of money buying meat from overseas, they most certainly can inject similar amounts back into their own economy if there was a full-time livestock market available in the country that supplied this perpetual need.
Meat consumption is estimated to be increasing at 5 percent per annum but livestock production has not increased over the last three decades in PNG, government data has indicated.
Prime Minister Marape said the creation of a separate ministry dedicated to the rehabilitation of livestock in the country and the recent appointment of South Fly MP Hon. Seki Agisa as Minister is to address this neglected area. Under the rearrangements, the former Department of Agriculture & Livestock is now separated into four ministries – Agriculture, Livestock, Oil Palm, and Coffee.
While announcing his Cabinet and these changes on Tuesday 23/08/22, PM Marape explained: “We want to see import replacement and more exports happening within the Agriculture sector which is why we have allocated four separate ministries in Agriculture.”
Import substitution and focus on export and downstream processing are at the heart of these continuing changes which began in 2019 when Marape took over as Prime Minister.
In Goroka in 2019, he announced that he wanted to see PNG become self-sufficient in livestock production by the Year 2025.
Following this in 2021, PM Marape directed the Livestock Development Corporation (LDC) to reclaim all State land that is cattle ranches, abattoirs and piggeries lost to settlers. This has led to the State Reclamation Project headed by former Agriculture & Livestock Minister Hon. John Simon that began at Corn Farm on the border of Western Highlands and Jiwaka provinces at the end of last year.
The new Minister Agisa will continue and expand this work further, PM Marape said this recently.
Terry Koim, Managing Director for LDC, last week (25/08/22) described the Prime Minister’s bold move as “taking the bull by the horns”, in light of the absolute lack of attention successive governments have given to livestock management and development over the years that has led to the closure of nearly all of its ranches and abattoirs.
Koim says a total of 23,700 hectares of land is the sum of the State’s livestock fields, much of it lost to squatters but now being reclaimed gradually.
Koim adds the benefit of a separate ministry gives strategic focus and concentrated work on reclaiming and rehabilitating these fields and facilities, restocking and breeding, processing the livestock, and, in the immediate future, exporting. Legislative and structural changes also need to be made to empower and strengthen the LDC to take this work to the next level, he says.
The LDC was established under the initial Pangu Government in 1983 to take over the responsibilities and operations of the various ranches, abattoirs, and piggeries in the country, in an effort to commercialize the successful livestock division of the old Department of Primary Industry.
It was incorporated as a 100 percent National Government entity and operates under the Companies Act 1997 yet is not declared as a ‘regulatory statutory authority.
In its early days, LDC was successful financially but was grossly mismanaged and over time left to deteriorate. Without sustainable programs in place and good leadership, LDC was forced to close most of its facilities, in turn forcing Papua New Guineans to turn to overseas markets especially Australia and New Zealand to buy their livestock supply in quantities.
With the return of attention to Livestock in this major way, PNG can now produce and supply its own livestock and look at exporting this to nearby markets in the near future.
Prime Minister Marape said he was very keen on capitalizing on the existing bilateral arrangements PNG has with its neighbor Indonesia to export PNG beef there. Indonesia has a population of nearly 280 million people and has an increasing market for beef.