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Money to support Karimui cocoa exists; now let’s get it deployed

Dr John Konam with a cocoa farmer
Agro-scientist and cloning specialist Dr John Konam with a local farmer at the experimental cocoa plantation at Karimui station (PNG Cocoa Board)

FRANCIS NII

KUNDIAWA – Karimui, in the deep south of the Simbu Province, is poised to become one of the major cocoa producing district in Papua New Guinea but it requires special attention from the national government.

The European Union committed K340 million for rehabilitation of cocoa in the cocoa pod borer-devastated province of East Sepik which many of us were not aware of it until it was mentioned recently in parliament by Madang MP Bryan Kramer.

Kramer’s question related to a decision by Planning Minister Richard Maru to cancel the grant to the East Sepik Province and direct it to projects in Karimui, Momase, Papua and Kerevat.

This would involve establishing a cocoa nursery in Karamui and building a connecting road from Gumine to the southern region, where there is no cocoa pod borer problem

A Facebook post by Kramer questioned the prudence and practicality of Maru’s decision in directing part of the grant to Karimui, which he assumed was not a cocoa producing area.

Kramer normally backs up his arguments with evidence but in this case he erred.

The redirection of this money is something that needs to happen.

Karimui is an emerging cocoa producer ready to explode but awaiting large scale supply of seedlings and a road connection to transport cocoa and also coffee, peanuts and rice to market.

Geographically, Karimui in the Salt Nomane Karimui District is at the extreme southern tip of the Simbu Province bordering with Gulf, Eastern Highlands and Southern Highlands provinces.

Unlike most of Simbu, Karimui is generally flat at an altitude of 800-1,500 meters with a climate of moderate to high humidity.

Crops like cocoa, betel nut and even coconuts normally associated with coastal areas grow prolifically in Karimui.

In fact, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare during a visit to Simbu once described Karimui as “the coast in the highlands”.

In the early 1990s, the agriculture officers in the Simbu Provincial Government with the support of the National Agriculture Research Institute and the Cocoa Board started cocoa agronomical research in Karimui with the aim of introducing it as an additional cash crop.

A name synonymous with Karimui cocoa is the late Kale Kua, described as “a veteran agriculturalist working as a pioneer developer of Karimui cocoa project.”

With the involvement of agricultural scientist and cocoa cloning and hybrid expert Dr John Konam, research and development into cocoa production has been very promising.

In July 2013, MAF airlifted the first trial cocoa production of nine bags of high quality cocoa beans produced using the old drying method.

Many farmers grow cocoa and coffee but are not producing due to high cost of freighting produce to Goroka by air.

Farmers are discouraged by the low return for their sweat but the potential for large scale production is unquestionable – with a road.

So the decision by Minister Maru to allocate part of the K340 million European Union grant to develop a road to connect Karimui with the outside world and to establish cocoa nursery in Karimui is good and economically feasible.

The people of Karimui and Simbu have been praying for and pleading with successive national governments for such an initiative without success.

Simbu is the poorest province in PNG in terms of natural resources and large scale agricultural production.

Its best hope for a more prosperous future lies in the backward, remote and naturally rich land of Karimui.

As a man from that area, and on behalf of the illiterate and ignorant majority who are mostly farmers, I plead that prime minister Peter O’Neill, Treasurer Charles Abel, Planning Minister Richard Maru and officials of the European Union to reconsider and direct at least K40 million of the grant to Karimui road and cocoa.

You will never regret making that decision.

Comments

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Robin Hide

To follow up on William Dunlop’s point about Lou Searle’s early (late 1960s-early 1970s ) trial agricultural work at Karimui.

Searle planted a small trial plot of cocoa at Karimui – i.e. some 20 years earlier than the later work in the early 1990s.

When I worked at Karimui in 1980-82, his plantings of cocoa, citrus and macadamia were still maintained at the DPI station, though records by then were few or absent.
This is how we described the experimental work (after summarising the detailed work on coffee, cardamom and chillies):
_________

OTHER CROPS

Between 1968 and 1973 DASF (operating from Kundiawa) made experimental plantings of a number of pasture species and crops at Karimui Station.

These included Bixa orellana, sunflower, macadamia nuts, several species of citrus, Cinchona, pawpaw, vanilla, tobacco, cocoa, and several pasture species (Para, Greenleaf Desmodium, Setaria, elephant grass, Louisiana white clover, and Glycine).

Documentation on these trials is virtually absent. There is an inspection report on the pasture trials (RDO to A/RRDO, Goroka, 13 .1.69, File 6-1-1 Karimui Subdistrict, Agriculture), a brief qualitative report on pawpaw, tobacco, citrus, and some pasture species (L.K. Searle to A/DRDO, Kundiawa, 21.1. 71, File 12-1-A, Kundiawa DASF), and some correspondence reporting oil analyses of, sunflower. seeds and the nodulation of white clover and Glycine max· (File 21-1-A(1), Kundiawa DPI, Miscellaneous
crops; File 21-4-A, Kundiawa DPI, Crops-Plant Diseases). There is also passing mention to the trials in Aland (1972), and in a memo (DRDO, Kundiawa, to RRDO, Goroka, 5.4.71, File 23-2-A, Kundiawa DASF, Production and Marketing-General).

The citrus, macadamia, and cocoa plantings are still maintained at the DPI Station.

Source: p. 236 of: Hide, R.L., Goodbody, S., and Gertru, G. 1984. “Agriculture:. In: Hide, R.L. ed. South Simbu: Studies in Demography, Nutrition, and Subsistence. Research Report of the Simbu Land Use Project Vol. VI. Research Report of the Simbu Land Use Project Vol. VI. Port Moresby, Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research, pp. 206-289.

Copy online at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260676599_South_Simbu_Studies_in_Demography_Nutrition_and_Subsistence

William Dunlop

Robert - You're welcome. Please do what you can to look after our wantok Francis Nii, our scribe blong Simbu.

Robert Muka

William - Thank you for the 'toksave'. You and your comrades have done a great to open up the place to the outside world. Thank you!

William Dunlop

Robert - I was their for your ancestors son, and very proud to be part of Doolan b'long Chimbu.
_________

Laurie Doolan was the first District Commissioner of Chimbu, a progressive leader who pushed forward at great speed to develop the (in the 1960s) neglected province which has few natural resources beyond the energy and ingenuity of its people - KJ

Robert Muka

Thanks Francis. Great article. Hope the promised funds are released for the benefit of our people.

William Dunlop's comment struck me cold, making it feel as if our generation cannot achieve anything but only benefit from infrastructure developed some 50 years ago. Very embarrassing to say the least.

Immediate action is required to complete Karimui road followed cocoa etc...development!

Francis Nii

I like the term 'preventive maintenance', William. This is what is lacking in PNG, rendering most of the roads to deterioration. Spot repairs and preventive maintenance is what the provincial works unit needs to do.

William Dunlop

Francis - As I recall the next stage was to Karumui, However self government and independence seem to haven gotten in the way. No Doolan blong Chimbu any more, that's what the people called him.

In 1978 the Highlands Highway (Sina Sina-Kundiawa) was upgraded by Works and Supply who brought in Bill Baltitude as Works Manager and his team from the Snowy Mountains Construction Authority.

I was Manager Plant and Transport Authority Bougainville then and was sent to Chimbu to look at this project. Even though a very successful project it was eventually mismanaged through lack of effective preventive maintenance - as has the entire PNG rural and national road networks today.

Barbara Short

From Kale Samuel, a cocoa buyer.....
________

I am right here in Finschhafen, one of the cocoa and coffee (Arabica) producing districts in PNG.

There is no road link to Lae. Freight per bag cocoa is between K80-K100 by boat. One way boat fare per passenger is K100.

Further North West, Sialum, Wasu and Umboi Island (Siassi) might be between K150 to K200.

Most cocoa farmers have abandoned the crop because fermentary owners are not paying them well due to higher transport costs.

It is unfair treatment for those who have been faithfully growing cocoa over the years yet nothing is done to help them.

It would be also wise to improve services to the already existing cocoa producing areas before venturing into new territory.

How will production of cocoa increase if the existing faithful farmers are neglected?

Production is decreasing on this side and increasing on that side. We end up producing same volume all year round.

J Lummani

As one of the team members from the PNG Cocoa Coconut Research Institute which pushed cocoa and coconut (unfortunately heard that coconut palms died) into Karamui in 2008, I am happy to see that funds may be made available to this very important project.

I pray and hope for this to continue on in the foreseeable future until cocoa take roots in Karimui. It is not just a provincial project but also a national project.

When Cocoa Pod Borer arrived in ENB in 2006, it took everybody by surprise.

Our agricultural scientists identified the introduction of cocoa into Karimui (and other potential suitable highland regions) as one of the ways to help sustain the cocoa industry because the highlands were free from the pest.

The Simbu government was very supportive of the project from the start. I have every confidence that if funds are available, the project will be a success.

I don't see any problem with scientific and extension help. The industry board will be ready to offer whatever help.

Francis Nii

Yes William, the Gumine Salt Nomane road is used to this day. But there is no road access to Karimui where cocoa production is going on . It needs to be connected to the outside world.

William Dunlop

Francis - Lew Searle of DASF Kundiawa in the late 1960's early 1970's had successfully trialled a large range of produce in the Karumui district,

Amongst them were the most beautiful grapefruit I have ever tasted.

When the late Laurie Doolan was District Commissioner lots of things happened in the south and roads got built. I was present when the Administrator opened the Salt Nomane road extension from Gumine in, as I recall, 1970.

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