A field of dreams? The PNG-Philippines rice deal
In the lead-up to last year’s APEC meeting, PNG and Filipino officials met beside rice paddies on the outskirts of Port Moresby to sign an unprecedented agreement. The recently signed five-year memorandum of agreement (MoA) calls for cooperation between the two governments in a range of agricultural sectors, including coconut, cocoa, coffee and palm oil. However, rice is key to understanding this deal. Philippines Agricultural Secretary Manny Piñol and PNG’s Agriculture and Livestock Minister Benny Allen signed the deal at a 25-hectare pilot rice farm next to Pacific Adventist University. The pilot kicked off in August last year, with help from 19 Filipino rice experts (handpicked from Piñol’s electorate), as well as supplies and equipment imported from the Philippines.
On the day of the signing, on a podium overlooking the pilot site, both Piñol and Allen spoke glowingly about the arrangement. Piñol said the productivity from the pilot had far exceeded expectations. He forecast that the next phase of the project would result in 4-5 megatonnes (4-5 million metric tonnes) of rice production in PNG within 2 years. That is an extraordinary prediction. It represents a 5-600 per cent increase over PNG’s current production: PNG currently produces less than two per cent of the 400,000 tonnes of rice it consumes each year. To realise this level of production, Filipino experts will help develop a larger rice plantation in East Sepik province. PNG’s Department of Agriculture is planning to leave an initial 100,000 hectares to Filipino companies, which both governments want to increase to one million hectares in five years if successful. The small rice farm on the outskirts of PNG’s capital has become Piñol and Allen’s ‘field of dreams’.
On the PNG side, the agreement provides the promise of self-sufficiency, a key goal …read more