Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) fresh produce sector is in the early stages of development with sizeable challenges to navigate. Problems range from lack of infrastructure, making connections to market difficult and costly, lack of investment by buyers meaning that there are issues around crop planning, demand forecasting, high wastage and consistency of supply volumes and quality. As a result, many farmers have to take the risk and incur the expense of taking their produce great distances in order to make a sale. As a consequence most produce gets stuck on the farm and doesn’t generate any income for the farmers.
NKW Holdings Limited provides services to the Hidden Valley Mining Project in Wau, Morobe province, including construction, consulting, catering, transportation and project management. To complement their catering services, and as part of a diversification programme, in 2014 NKW established NKW Fresh, a fresh produce buying company. The company sources fresh produce from local smallholder vegetable farming households and supplies to its catering service, as well as to other markets, including supermarkets and catering companies. NKW has a good relationship with their farmers as they deal directly with the smallholders rather than traders. It has the largest buying depot in the business and buys 60 metric tons of fresh produce from farmers each month.
NKW is currently experiencing an inconsistency with supply volume, limited range of produce and inconsistency with quality, which is impeding its growth. Through the partnership with MDF, NKW is working with farmers to fulfill the increasing demand for temperate vegetables in the extractive industries and in urban areas in PNG. NKW Fresh is doing this by educating and developing farming communities on better crop planning and cultivation practices to provide a quality, consistent product. They are also providing input supplies for potential crops that are currently imported and make them available to farmers so that they can diversify their produce.
MDF is assisting NKW strengthening the supply chain by developing a supplier farmer database that will help identify and track farmers and recruiting and building the capacity of field officers who will help farmers with crop planning. Around 700 farmers are expected to benefit from this partnership with the potential to gradually increase women farmers’ independence and make them less vulnerable because of the direct contact with the buyer.
A major innovation under this partnership is the use of mobile technology by the field officers for crop planning. Each field office will have a smart phone loaded with newly designed crop management software to record the 100-150 farmers that they supports crops in order for them to plan better. This partnership falls under the Rural Input Services engagement area.