In whose interest?

On the 27th June, 2013, a press release was authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in both the PNG National newspapers calling for “Expressions of Interest”, from companies and organisations for rice production by large scale mechanized irrigated agriculture system on a Public Private partnership.

The press release ended by inviting project proposals to be marked “Rice production Project Proposal”, and labelled “Confidential” and to be sent to the Acting Secretary. The end date for submitting those confidential documents was 25th July, 2013.

I was surprised and wondered whether the Honorable Minister actually made sense of the press release before authorizing it for release. The only sections that made any sense were the first and the last paragraph.

The rest was undecipherable gibberish – reminded me of one of my disgraceful effort at first year essay writing where I was caught out plagiarizing text which was out of context for the assignment – as long as the big words contained were recognizable, I thought I was OK – unfortunately I received a big F.

The person who wrote the press release must have been under the influence of a mind altering drug or else it was done in haste that no time was spent in checking if the science made any sense. Or probably, it was written by a non-English speaking person under the influence and in a hurry.

The information contained in it also contradicted the aim of the press release. For instance, the fifth paragraph stated that previous efforts to exploit the nations irrigated rice production were not successful. Even efforts to stimulate small scale irrigation system for rice production failed.

No guarantee was given and no new information was offered to show that the department, in this new proposal will rectify the lack of positive outcome in the previous attempts to grow rice.

However, the press release mentions that this project gets its political mandate from the PNG Food Security Policy – a 35 paged book from 1999 that states that 100,000 hectare of rain-fed lowland area will be planted with rice in order to produce 150,000 to 170,000 tonnes of milled rice.

Using data from 13 years ago is not credible scientific research to be pushing a rice agenda in 2013 when so much has changed on the socio-economic front.

This information also contradicts another document (99 pages) dated 2001 from the Department of Agriculture that states that the best food security method for PNG is in strengthening traditional methods of agriculture. There was no mention of growing rice as a food security in the document.

Whose agenda are we serving when we push for projects that are not suitable for PNG? The press release tasted so much like the Naima Rice Project making its appearance, again. ( )

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