The National Development Bank has been a close follower of the progress of the Gabadi Hybrid Rice Project in Gabadi, Central Province and is overwhelmed by the its outcome so far. NDB has invested almost K2.6 million to the company behind this project, Gabadi Agriculture Limited (GAL), which was used as start up capital to get the project off the ground.

On Monday GAL, in the presence of invited guests officially launched the Harvest Festival to mark the harvesting phase of the project and to show those present, the performance of the variety rice planted in Gabadi. Three varieties of rice were brought in from the Philippines and have been tested in Gabadi after a soil analysis was done by the National Agriculture and Research Institute (NARI) granting permission to carry out the project.

These rice varieties; SL8, SL12 and SL14 from SL Agritech in the Philippines have to date proven to be conducive to PNG’s tropical conditions with the first harvest expected to take place within this month upon favourable weather conditions. Present to witness the occasion was the Philippines Ambassador to Papua New Guinea Dr. Bien Tejano who has been very supportive and instrumental throughout the course of the project, Hybrid Rice expert Dr. Frisco Malabanan, Vice Chancellor of the Pacific Adventist University, Professor Ben Thomas; Acting Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock Steven Mombi, and officials from NDB among others.

Dr. Frisco Malabanan of SL Agritech, the company responsible for the hybrid seedlings said that indeed rice can be grown and can be profitable and sustainable in PNG and this is evident by the rice plants. Acting Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock, Steven Mombi said that the agriculture sector has three objectives and that is to 1. Increase production and the export of commodity crops in the country, 2. Increase investment opportunities and 3. Increase the number of small to medium enterprises in the country.

“By 2050, we need farmers to become millionaires and billionaires in the country and that is what we are looking at. It may be ambitious but at least we set goals and try to work towards it,” Mr. Mombi said. He added that Parliament has endorsed a rice policy that basically talks about three morals; food development, food security and commercializing the rice industry.

“The rice industry is in its infant stages in the country and we need to go big; massive commercial production of rice and with that, the policy has been launched and we hope it will address the concerns of everybody from the people, private sector, and the government and development partners” Mr. Mombi said.

The first harvest of the rice grains will be sent to PAU for drying, mill processing and packaging and then put on the market.