The organic sector is minuscule in Papua New Guinea. Only organic pineapple is produced and not sold for a premium domestically. There is no organic movement and due to the absence of advice and information on organic farming practices under local conditions, the sector is not expected to expand in the foreseeable future.
1. Organic farming in Papua New Guinea
1.1 Origins and pioneers
The organic sector in Papua New Guinea is young and poorly developed. The first efforts to produce organically were made in the early 1990s by coffee exporters, who became aware of the potential of organic products in international markets. Most of the coffee in Papua New Guinea is produced by small-scale farmers, who use natural production methods, e.g. inter-cropped in primary forest together with other crops. Agro-chemicals are hardly used; therefore, conversion to organic production does not require major changes in farming practices. In 1991, the first organic inspection of coffee growers, coffee mills and exporters was carried out by the organic certifier NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia).
Growth in the organic sector has been very slow since then. In 1994, three coffee and one fruit producer (pineapples) were certified organically, while in 2000 six producers have been certified organically; four coffee producers, one tea producer and one producer of pineapples (including juice) and peanuts. Contact details of these producers are found in the annex.
1.2 Support to the organic sector
No Government support exists for organic production in the country. Between 1994 and 1996 the trade promotion project of GTZ/Protrade has been active in the organic sector to support: (i) conversion to economically sound organic agricultural systems; (ii) introduction of certified organic products in international markets; and (iii) accreditation of Papua New Guinea as exporting country for organic produce.
Seven organic producers with an export potential received technical and financial assistance for the inspections according to the EC Regulation through the GTZ/Protrade project. The companies included produced a wide range of organic products, including: (i) coffee (roasted and green beans); (ii) cocoa; (iii) copra for coconut oil; (iv) black pepper; (v) vanilla; and (vi) pineapples and pineapple juice. Four of the seven producers obtained organic certification. Reasons for the other three to not receive organic certification include: (i) lack of serious interest to produce organically; (ii) severe economic problems and the inability to pay inspection costs; and (iii) one plantation was seriously damaged by a volcano eruption at Rabaul in 1995.
Additionally, the GTZ/Protrade consultants gave advice to the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) of the Ministry of Agriculture and to the National Institute of Standards and Industrial Technology (NISIT) in order to develop national standards and a control system for organic agriculture. However, not much progress has been achieved since then.
1.3 Main initial constraints
The development of the organic sector has been limited through various constraining factors, including: (i) absence of technical information, extension services and expertise on organic methods (e.g. possible rotation, organic fertilization, plant protection, etc.); (ii) lack of information on international standards and requirements for organic certification and exports; and (iii) lack of information on organic markets.
2. Institutions active in the organic sector
From 1997 to 1999 DAL conducted a study on the state of organic production and export potential in the country. In August 2000, DAL submitted to the Government a proposal to create an association of organic agriculture, which should function as the national organic certification body. However, although foundation of the association was approved in principal, the needed budget (US$57 000) was not approved.
Therefore, at the time of writing (mid-2001) there is no institution, organization or research institute providing information on organic farming methods, while agricultural extension on organic methods does not exist. Government departments are not informed on up-to-date international standards. The organic certified companies generally do not cooperate closely.
3. Standards and regulations
There are no national standards concerning organic agriculture in Papua New Guinea, and no organic legislation is under preparation. Organic agriculture is mainly practised for the export market, for which international standards (like IFOAM and the EC Regulation) are applied.
4. Production of organic fruit and vegetables
No organic vegetables are produced, while the only organic fruit are pineapples (variety cayenne). Production is undertaken on the estate of Sogerie Spices, 40 km east of the capital, Port Moresby, near the town of Sogerie, at 1 000 m altitude. Pineapples are produced on an area of 25 hectares, and are rotated with groundnuts. The annual yield is about 100 tonnes, of which 40 tonnes are sold as whole fresh fruits and the remaining 60 tonnes are processed to approximately 30 000 litres of juice. The main harvesting season is from November to February, with a minor harvest from April to July, depending on rains.
5. Marketing organic fruit and vegetables
No exports of organic fruit and vegetables exist. Organic pineapples are sold on the internal market. Fresh pineapples are sold domestically to supermarkets and hotels in Port Moresby, and pineapple juice is sold to Air Niugini.
Both fresh pineapples and juice are sold as conventional, without a price premium. Therefore, the additional costs of organic certification, which are not offset by a higher price for the producer, seem not to make sense. However, organic certification has already been attempted by Sogerie Spices as it strives to double production and to begin exporting organic pineapples to New Zealand in the near future.
A major constraint to exports of fresh produce from Papua New Guinea is poor air links. The country has one international airport (Port Moresby) and the airlines operating in Papua New Guinea (Air Niugini and Qantas) have only a few direct international flights.
6. Conclusions: prospects for increases in production and exports
The organic sector in Papua New Guinea is young and very small. The only organic certified fresh fruits are pineapples, but they are sold on the domestic market without a price premium to offset costs of certification and control. The current number of certified organic producers in the country is small and a national organic movement is absent. Certification is carried out by two foreign certifiers (both from New Zealand). The current small size of the sector does not make the establishment of a nation certifier probable in the near future.
Prospects for diversifying towards organic horticultural products are poor. Horticulture is in general underdeveloped in the country. Fruits and vegetables are nearly exclusively grown for self consumption. Major constraints for horticultural production, both conventional and organic, include, among others: (i) lack of experience in and knowledge of the required logistics for commercial horticultural production; (ii) poor extension services; and (iii) competition with imports from Australia.
Significant exports of organic fresh fruits and vegetables from Papua New Guinea are therefore not likely in the foreseeable future.
Addresses of certified companies
1 Airport Road
Niugini Coffee, Tea & Spices Ltd.
PO Box 680
Sogerie Spices Ltd.
PO Box 2531
Yha Hauka Kopi Pty Ltd.
PO Box 38
Tel: 675- 443205
PO Box 680
Addresses of certifiers operating in PNG
PO Box 768
PO Box 3404
NASAA inspector based in PNG
PO Box 4270
LAE Morrobe Province
Tel/Fax: 0011675 472 5370
Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL)
PO Box 417
National Institute of Standard and Industrial
PO Wards Strip