Papua New Guinean agriculture: significant opportunity and much peril

Agriculture Exports Food industry and trade Economic development Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a predominantly rural society that relies on subsistence agriculture. Its Prime Minister, James Marape, has stated that he wants to diversify the economy, away from its dependence on oil and gas and increase the export of agricultural goods. While agriculture is a significant part of the PNG economy, its agricultural exports are almost entirely limited to coffee, palm oil and copra. Although it is possible that PNG will be able to expand the supply of those commodities, the development of other food products, such as rice or other cereals, will likely be difficult.

Key points:

  • At least 80 per cent of the Papua New Guinean population lives in rural areas and relies on subsistence agriculture. Rural Papua New Guineans are generally isolated from formal agricultural markets and are mostly self-sufficient.
  • Malnutrition is the main food security problem in PNG and is a major health challenge for a large portion of the population. That is mainly due to high rates of stunting in young children and adult obesity.
  • Prime Minister James Marape has a vision of turning PNG into the “food basket of Asia”. While PNG has developed palm oil, coffee, cocoa and copra export industries, expanding into the production of other export commodities is likely to be difficult.
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