In 1989 when the government established the Spice Industry Board, the hope was that farmers would be supported though through high level government intervention.
Thirty years on, farmers continue to struggle to produce small volumes of spices in an industry that is potentially worth more than coffee in export revenue.
Zacharias Ikio from the Eastern Highlands based PNG Spice development Agency, is frustrated about the years of neglect and the lack of government support.
“Government services don’t reach the people. We want to realise the potential of this lucrative market,” he says.
Farmers in the Eastern Highlands grow only five different spices at present – Tumeric, Ginger, Chilies, onions, garlic and cardamon.
Collectively, these crops have a potential export volume of between 6000 and 7000 tons. In terms of revenue, it’s worth about K100 million.
Spices are what agricultural planners describe as a low volume, high value crops.
A kilo of cardamon can fetch anything between K5 and K12 per kilo. It’s value per kilogram exceeds that of coffee when the prices are good.
All the Spice farming is happening on small portions of customary land with the people in control.