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.