Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

New partnership announces support to rural farmers during COVID-19 lockdown

Up to 82,000 households in four provinces will benefit from a new partnership agreement signed in Lae, Morobe Province recently. The agreement is between PNG-Australia Partnership-supported Market Development Facility (MDF) and Outspan Limited.

Through this partnership, MDF will support Outspan in conducting an awareness campaign to guide cocoa and coffee buyers and smallholders on COVID-19 and the precautions they should use when buying and selling.

The partnership will target up to 100 Local Level Governments in Morobe, Eastern Highlands, East New Britain and East Sepik Provinces. Outspan’s extension teams will train smallholders, farmer groups, cocoa and coffee buyers and local members of churches on safe hygiene and preventive measures to practice when buying and selling. This support will also include Personal Protective Equipment for trainers, distribution of hand sanitizers in village churches, and soap to each household for hand washing.

At the signing, MDF Country Director Sharif Islam said the training package will ensure farmers and key players in the upstream market are ready and equipped to continue market chain supply if the lockdown continues.

“With uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last, we have to be ready. If there is total lock down, the farmers will not be able to move to sell, so aggregators trained through this intervention will link lockdown small holders to market.” Sharif said.

Mr. Basavaraj Mashetty who represented Outspan said with decline in the market supply chain, everyone will be affected.

“We are already experiencing a drop in supply from farmers and it is not looking good for business. This will affect workers, cut in wages, families and everyone involved will be affected, even farmers,” he said.

Mr. Basavaraj further stated, “We will support Provincial Health Departments and our farmer contacts on the ground to drive key preventive messages like hand washing, social distancing and basic hygiene practices to as many villagers as we can.”

Also present at the ceremony, Australia’s Consul General in Lae, Paul Murphy, said, “Australia values its longstanding ties with Papua New Guinea (PNG).  Its assistance can be a catalyst for more inclusive economic growth in PNG, hence we engage with the private sector and support initiatives that promote growth. Through Market Development Facility, we want to support private sector in managing its agricultural supply chain in a crisis like COVID-19, and at the same time raise awareness in the rural communities in a collaborative manner.”

MDF is a multi-country initiative supported by the Australian Government to help farmers and workers, including women thrive in the agriculture sector.

For further information, including access to related materials, please contact the Australian High Commission media team: +675 7090 0100

(L-R) Outspan Business Manager, Mr. Basavaraj Mashetty, MDF representative, Mr. Taidus Manzang and, Australia’s Consul General Mr. Paul Murphy at the signing.