Pyrethrum in Papua New Guinea

Pyrethrum produces a daisy-like flower that is used to make a natural insecticide. It grows best at high-altitude locations in the equatorial tropics, including in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and East Africa, and in some temperate-climate locations, such as Tasmania, Australia.

The active ingredient, pyrethrin, is extracted from dried pyrethrum flowers and used to make insecticides for household, agriculture, public health and food industry uses. These include aerosols, sprays, pet shampoo and mosquito coils. Pyrethrum is valued because it is highly effective at repelling or killing a broad range of insects, but is not toxic to mammals, including humans, and breaks down quickly in sunlight, leaving no residues.

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Vanilla in Papua New Guinea

Vanilla is used as a natural food and drink flavouring and as an ingredient in perfume. There are two commercial types of vanilla – Bourbon (Vanilla planifolia) and Tahitian (V. tahitensis). Both are grown in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Bourbon vanilla is higher yielding, contains more vanillin and has a wider market. Tahitian vanilla needs a shorter period to induce flowering and is thus suited to a wider range of environmental conditions.

Vanilla Planifolia Flower

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Cocoa in Papua New Guinea

Cocoa is the third most important source of village agricultural income, after coffee and fresh food. In the early to mid 1990s, an estimated 850 000 people (27% of the rural population) lived in households where cash income was earned from selling cocoa. Cocoa generated an average of K218 million per year in export income from 2004 to 2006, which was 14% of the value of agricultural exports in this period.


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Coffee in Papua New Guinea

Coffee is one of the most important cash crops in Papua New Guinea (PNG), with export revenues consistently topping US$100 million per annum. Total production for 2016 was nearly 1.2 million 60-kg bags (70,260 tonnes). Globally, PNG ranked 18th in the world for coffee production for 2016/2017 (USDA and FAS 2017). Most of the coffee produced in PNG is the Arabica species, the main Arabica coffee – growing provinces being, in descending order of importance, Eastern Highlands, Jiwaka, Western Highlands, Morobe, Simbu, East Sepik, Southern Highlands, Enga, Madang, Oro, Sandaun (formerly West Sepik), Milne Bay, Central and Gulf (CIC 2016:3). Importantly, coffee is the mainstay of the local economy, especially in the main Arabica-growing provinces of the highlands. In the period 1990–1995 Arabica provided 33 per cent of all income from agricultural activities — more cash income to rural villagers than any other commodity. This situation is likely to hold true today, although fresh food production has increased greatly since that data were recorded. The coffee sector in PNG mainly comprises smallholders (approximately 400,000) and it is estimated that 3 million people in the country are dependent on coffee income.

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Copra and Copra Oil in Papua New Guinea

Copra is an important source of village income. In the early to mid 1990s, an estimated 527 000 people (17% of the rural population) lived in households where cash was earned from selling copra. From 2004 to 2006 copra and copra oil generated average annual export earnings of K93 million; this was only 6% of the total value of agricultural exports in this period. Most of this amount (85%) was earned from copra oil exports.

Three economic products are derived from the nut of the coconut palm: copra, copra oil and copra meal. Although coconut will regenerate naturally from seed in coastal locations, almost all coconut palms in PNG have been planted by people. In PNG, coconut is grown in environments where mean annual rainfall ranges from 1000 mm to 6500 mm. It is cultivated from sea level to 1000 m altitude; however, the commercial cultivation of coconut is mostly restricted to coastal locations. Coconut normally bears all year round, but production falls significantly during droughts.

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Oil Palm in Papua New Guinea

Palm oil has been PNG’s most valuable agricultural export since 2000, when it overtook coffee in this role. Palm oil exports averaged K420
million per year from 2004 to 2006, which was 30% of the value of agricultural exports for that period. Oil palm production has expanded at a much greater rate than other export tree crops. However, a smaller proportion of the rural population is engaged in growing oil palm than for the other major export and domestically marketed crops. Approximately 130 000 settlers or villagers derived income from selling oil palm in 1995 (4% of the rural population). In 2007, the Oil Palm Research Association estimated that about 166 000 people (3% of the rural population) lived in households that produced oil palm. Many other people derive income directly or indirectly from the PNG oil palm industry, including those working on the nucleus estates.

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Rubber in Papua New Guinea

Rubber is a minor cash crop in a limited number of PNG locations. From 2004 to 2006 rubber generated average export earnings of K19 million per year, which was 1% of the value of agricultural exports in this period. In 2007 exports were worth K24 million. The significance of rubber in the economy has declined from the 1950s, when rubber exports made up around 12% of agricultural exports.

Natural rubber is used for many household and industrial purposes, most importantly the manufacture of motor vehicle tyres and tubes. Other uses include the manufacture of window parts, various items used in engines (belts, hoses, dampeners), gloves, toy balloons, adhesives and rubber bands.

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Sugar Cane in Papua New Guinea

Sugar cane is indigenous to Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is widely cultivated in village gardens all over PNG, throughout the year, and is chewed to extract the sweet juice. Modern sugarcane varieties cultivated for refined sugar are complex hybrids (Saccharum spp.). Commercial cultivation and production of sugar is confined to the Ramu Agri-Industries Ltd nucleus estate at Gusap–Dumpu in the Ramu Valley of Madang Province. This article focuses on commercial sugar production. The nucleus estate is located at an altitude of 400 m in an environment where mean annual rainfall is about 2000 mm. The cultivation of sugar at the plantation is seasonal; cane is planted from late February to May to reduce problems associated with insect pests and weeds, and to take advantage of optimum growing conditions. Cane is harvested from April to October using mechanical harvesters. Continue reading “Sugar Cane in Papua New Guinea”

Tea in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea (PNG) tea is mostly grown in Western Highlands Province between 1200 m and 1950 m altitude in areas where mean annual rainfall is around 2500 mm. A non-producing tea plantation exists at a former government estate at Garaina in Morobe Province at an altitude of around 600 m. Production of tea in PNG is non-seasonal. Continue reading “Tea in Papua New Guinea”