The Papua New Guinean prime minister has announced his cabinet, which contains not only some new faces, but some new positions as well, including a minister for coffee.

The post – believed to be a world first – shows the government’s commitment to expanding key agriculture industries, said the prime minister James Marape, who won re-election earlier this month after an election plagued by violence and allegations of voter fraud. For the first time Marape also named a minister for palm oil.

“The appointments specifically spotlight agriculture in a very significant way, to see agriculture growth in the country,” he said on Tuesday when announcing the new 33-member cabinet.

“Agriculture is where the government can have the greatest impact in terms of the population of this country, because the bulk of our people are subsistence farmers. We have land and we must encourage our people to go into agriculture production.”

The coffee and palm oil ministries sit alongside the main agriculture ministry, run by Goroka MP Aiye Tambua.

The minister for coffee is a new MP, Joe Kuli, from Anglimp-South Waghi, in the central highlands region.

PNG coffee has emerged as a desirable import in recent years, with cafes across Australia, the US and Japan serving coffee made with beans grown in PNG.

Marape said the coffee industry needed to be revived to bring in more export revenue. Kuli understood the challenge, he said, because he comes from the Wahgi Valley of Jiwaka, which was once a huge coffee plantation, but has been overgrown by bush.

“Minister Kuli’s focus will be coffee, coffee, and coffee. I want to drink coffee made in Goroka, Mt Hagen, Lae and other parts of the country. I want to see more coffee grown for export to the lucrative markets of the world.”

Coffee production in the country is dominated by village-based small-scale farmers, who produce close to 85% of the country’s annual crop. It is a source of income for close to two million people – around one quarter of the population – according to the department of agriculture and livestock.

Coffee is the country’s second largest agricultural commodity after palm oil, accounting for 27% of all agriculture exports and 6% of the country’s GDP.

Francis Maneke, the MP for Talasea, in West New Britain, has been appointed as the new palm oil minister, responsible for the crop of trees from which palm oil can be produced.

“Oil palm is the largest agriculture commodity in PNG, contributing about 40% – K1.2 billion annually – of PNG’s export revenue in the agriculture sector,” said Marape.

“We have so much land that is lying around idle and minister Maneke will be tasked to use this to increase production, as well as help the existing industry to grow,” he said.

Source: The Guardian