Source: The National, Thursday 31st May, 2012
By ARMSTRONG SAIYAMA of Divine Word University
THE remote Teptep district of Madang province has the potential to become the food bowl of Papua New Guinea.
Teptep district rural development officer Susan Kui said local farmers produced more than 700kg of fruits and vegetables every week.
Teptep is located in the Finisterre Range, an area that is difficult to reach, at the border of Madang and Morobe provinces.
It has a temperate climate and rich soil to cultivate Arabica coffee, tobacco leaves and many temperate fresh and organic highlands fruits and vegetables.
“The Teptep people are hard working and they grow coffee and fresh, organic highlands fruits and vegetables,” Kui said.
The people live in a subsistence economy and cultivate sweet potatoes as staple food.
Taro, banana, sugar canes and the local leafy vegetables are also grown by the villagers to supplement their diet.
She said the people were venturing into cultivating fruits and vegetables to sell in major supermarkets and hotels in Madang town.
“They grow highlands fruits and vegetables such as asparagus, avocados, beans, broccoli, brown round onions, capsicums, carrots, cauliflower, strawberries, pineapples, round cabbages, spring onions, silver beets, tomatoes and many other highlands fruits and vegetables.
“Some Teptep farmers even grow apples in their gardens,” she said.
“Teptep coffee farmers produce some of the best organic coffee in the world.”
Kui said in 2007, the farmers revived the cultivation of potatoes.
“I helped the Teptep farmers to grow potatoes in their village gardens. And today, we have some potato farmers in Teptep.”
She said the Teptep people were passionate about growing fresh fruits and vegetables and cultivating coffee.
“Our big problem is with transportation.
“We do not have roads connecting Teptep to Madang town. Therefore, we do not have easy access for Teptep farmers to sell their fresh produce in markets in Madang town,” Kui said.
The Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) airplanes fly regularly into Teptep.
“The Teptep villagers have formed the Teptep Vegetables Farmers Association to collectively freight the villagers’ fruits and vegetables to available markets in Madang town,” Kui said.
“This is a very expensive exercise. Last year, MAF’s freight charge for airlifting fruits and vegetables to Madang town was K2.60 per kilogram.
“Sometimes, the farmers become frustrated because the weather is bad or there is no pilot to fly the planes into Teptep to pick their fresh produce.
“That is when all their fruits and vegetables will perish and their hard work wasted,” Kui said.
The Teptep Vegetables Farmers Association sells fresh fruits and vegetables to markets such as the Madang Butchery and Madang Lodge.
“Madang Resort once used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from the Teptep Vegetables Farmers Association.
“But now, they cheaply buy their supply of fruits and vegetables from highlands farmers who easily bring in their fresh fruits and vegetables into Madang town,” Kui said.
“What the Teptep people need are roads connecting this mountainous region to the markets in Madang town.”