Philippine’s President Duterte and his Agriculture Secretary want to plant 1 million hectares of rice in Papua New Guinea by 2023
O’Neill and Allan stitch up another huge land grab
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Agriculture Minister Benny Allan have promised the Philippines government at least one million hectares of land in Papua New Guinea for Filipino farmers to grow rice, according to media reports.
The 1 million hectares [10,000 square kilometres] will be leased to Filipino companies and thousands of Filipino farmers and agriculture graduates are expected to head to PNG, according to the country’s Agriculture Secretary, Emmanuel F. Piñol.
The Philippines government says the 1 million hectares of rice is just its initial five-year target. That means by 2023, over 2% of the total area of PNG could be in Filipino hands.
Information on the rice growing deal first started to emerge after a meeting between Prime Minister O’Neill and President Duterte, at the APEC summit in Vietnam in November last year .
More details of the deal were agreed between Agriculture Minister Benny Allan and Piñol in Manilla earlier this month.
The deal is expected to be finalised in Port Moresby early next month with a delegation led by the Philippines Agriculture Secretary set to travel on March 7.
Initially a team of 22 Filipino farmers will come to PNG to start the development of a 100-hectare demonstration farm within the Seventh Day Adventist College compound outside Port Moresby. The Philippines government hopes that President Duterte will visit the demonstration farm when he attends the APEC Summit in November.
The whole land grab has been developed on the back of APEC and is a perpetuation of the false narrative that PNG’s customary land is idle and must be ‘freed up’ for foreigners to bring development.
The truth is, customary land already supports an economy worth as much as K40 billion a year, far bigger than the resource extraction industries the government obsesses over. Customary land also provides jobs for 3 million farmers and supports a rural population of 7 million. Customary land is set to become even more important in the future, with PNG’s population set to grow to over 13 million by 2050.
Meanwhile, opposition to the rice deal is beginning to emerge in the Philippines . Local farmers there say the plan is “an insult” to them and Filipino farmers were fully capable of producing all their countries rice needs locally. They say the plan is “very anti-farmer as well as against the poor”, sentiments that will resonate equally in Papua New Guinea.