PH firms urged to grow agriculture, livestock in Papua New Guinea

MANILA Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Peter Charles Paire O'Neill is encouraging Filipino companies to grow agriculture and produce dairy products in his country to feed both nations.

"PNG wanted to produce rice not only for our own consumption but also to provide for Filipinos' food security, now that there's going to be a huge demand for rice in the Asia Pacific region," he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

O'Neill narrated that he met President Rodrigo Duterte in Vietnam during the APEC Meeting in 2017. "I requested him to provide us support, particularly technical assistance because we know that the Philippines has some of the leading rice producers in the world," O'Neill said.

The PNG prime minister said the country has tapped some Filipino scientists to grow rice there and do some studies not just to develop PNG's rice industry, but also to increase rice production.

The Philippine and PNG governments signed on Wednesday in MalacaAang an agricultural cooperation between the two countries. The cooperation allows Philippine companies to use PNG lands to grow rice. The excess production may be shipped to the Philippines.

The signing was witnessed by O'Neill and President Duterte.

O'Neill said the rice production could be doubled in PNG with the help of Filipino scientists.

"It's a win-win for both countries (as we could) feed our population," he commented.

"PNG will contribute very fertile, large portions of land that's going to enable Filipino companies, particularly those who are already in the rice industry, to come and grow rice and export rice to the Philippines. We are going to assist them in building the infrastructure, particularly the roads, power, and irrigation system, so they could do their work in PNG," O'Neill told the PNA.

Meanwhile, O'Neill said the Philippines has a Rice Farm Project in PNG. "In the next few weeks, we will identify the number of Filipino rice growers, who have been identified by the Department of Agriculture (DA). The DA Secretary is now processing the application for them to gain visas to go to work and live in PNG," he said.

The prime minister explained that through this project, rice production will be more affordable and sustainable. "Because PNG has a very small population, and we continue to have a substantial land available to grow rice. We have one of the most fertile soils globally, which means agricultural products will continue to yield much better production," he explained.

O'Neill added PNG would continue to work with Filipino investors and the government for technical assistance.

"We look forward to feeding everyone in the Philippines and in PNG. Apart from rice, we also want to produce dairy products," he said.

Citing that the Philippines imports a huge percentage of dairy products from around the world, O'Neill emphasized that PNG has enough land to produce this.

"We encourage Filipino companies to come in and make sure we produce enough dairy products," he said.

O'Neill said there are about 37,000 Filipinos working and living in PNG at present. "I can assure you that many of them don't seem to want to come back home. So this indicates a friendly environment (in PNG)," he said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency