Past, Present and Future of Coffee Industry in Papua New Guinea

Dr Nelson Simbiken presenting at SSGM seminar series. Image SSGM

Dr Neslon Simbiken

Coffee plays an important role in the socio-economic and political development of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Since independence in 1975, the block and plantation sectors were the mainstay of the coffee industry for almost two decades, producing high-quality, marketable coffee. The Coffee Industry Act 1991 and the associated regulatory policy, were initially created to support the capitalist mode of production and favoured the block and plantation sectors. Currently, the power structure and organisation of coffee production exists predominantly with the rural population where 90% of production comes from the smallholder sector and the difference from the blocks and plantation sectors. The coffee industry in PNG supports up to 3.5 million people with about 85% of these people from rural communities. Current policy does not recognise the shift in the power structure between the block and plantation sectors and smallholder producers.

The decline in the block and plantation sectors is due to its inability to competitively operate with the increasing costs of production, as well as the Government’s lack of budgetary support for the agriculture sector. In 2013 to fill the vacuum the Coffee Industry Corporation Limited, as the regulator and advocate for of the coffee industry, commenced giving smallholder sector reserve licences for exports and market access through a new coffee grading system and the National Coffee Cupping Competition. Through these interventions, the smallholder coffee quality is improving and the production and marketing trend for PNG smallholder coffee is entering specialty and certified markets.

The future of the coffee industry, investment and business for sustainable economic growth demands innovation in linking smallholder coffees to market with differentiated products, which should be in tandem with the resurrection of the block and plantation sectors through sound policies that support reduced costs of production.

About the speaker

  • Worked with National Agriculture Research Institute between 1995 and 1999 as Senior Research Officer in Plant Protection.
  • Worked with Coffee Research Institute a division of Coffee Industry Corporation Ltd since 2000 and current. Done 16 years of coffee experience.
  • Completed PhD program with Research School Biology, physiology Lab with the Ecology, Evolution and Genetics Division between 2010 and 2013. Research Thesis on “Feeding Behaviour of Grapevine Scale Insects on Grapevines in Australia”.

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