It is unbelievable that since my last AgBook Articles, I am sitting in isolation watching the world standstill as we fight an invisible enemy destroying many lives and even more livelihoods.
I can’t help but contemplate the importance of agriculture in these challenging times. As most of our society hibernates, we still need to eat. The food chain remains incredibly important to the world, now and always, to ensure supermarket shelves are stocked and food is on the tables. This makes me feel as a Papua New Guinean, that we are incredibly important. As small family farmers, we are part of the largest segment of a global supply chain that feeds a fast-growing world, especially in our own region. We have some of the best farming environments globally, with fertile soils, plentiful water and hardworking people.
Our ability to supply food to ourselves and other countries is critical for our economy and people. The arrival of COVID-19 is a crisis and is going to test our vulnerability and make us quickly assess our capability to withstand such sudden shocks and come out the other side without too much adverse impact. The virus has rightfully seen the Government quickly invest in strategies that will protect our society against its spread. Hopefully these measures and everyone’s commitment will see us all remain safe.
I sense this crisis provides lessons for building our resilience against future natural disasters. Certainly, protecting agriculture against the impacts of disasters will be incredibly important to global food security and the livelihoods of our people. The Government has stated many times that agriculture provides our people with the best opportunity to increase our standard of living and access to services. As a young woman eager to see our country develop for the benefit of our people, I am hopeful the Government will facilitate agricultural development with the same urgency they have been required to take with the current crisis.
If farmers had more money earned from agriculture, our health and education systems would become more sustainable. There would be more money for investment into infrastructure that would assist our people access better, more valuable markets, and be able to move around and communicate with each other. There would be more money to protect our communities in the event of natural disasters.
At AgBook, we are using this time to consider what we can do to assist farmers get better organised and access the necessary equipment and training to become more profitable. As an example, retailers and restaurants want fresh and safe produce such as poultry, eggs, pork, beef, fish, to name a few items. Many of these goods are imported, yet, there is an opportunity to produce them ourselves. Our farmers can individually produce any of these products, but they are unable to access proper slaughtering facilities, safe warehousing, cold storage and other critical parts of the supply chain to benefit from their efforts.
The Governments stated commitment to the agriculture sector is so important. I hope the fallout from this current crisis is a strengthened commitment to agriculture, providing support to farmers to better understand financial and business concepts; to assist them to work collaboratively and access the capital necessary to supply all the products that are in such demand in their own backyard.
Increasing our farmers understanding of farming as a business, and supporting their professional and business development, will provide the basis for investment into vital business assets that will put more money in their pockets.
Hoping everyone can stay safe through this crisis and come out the other side with renewed vigour and determination.