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Visit by PNG sweet potato farmers could be a recipe for success

Published:21 May 2019

TOP: HSG at The Gardens restauranteur Dion Taylor with the visiting PNG farmers. BELOW: A field trip in the Wide Bay region.

CQUniversity has partnered with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to enable a group of Papua New Guinean farmers to get behind the scenes of Wide Bay's sweet potato industry, helping the visitors upgrade their own operations to a commercial level.

Senior Research Officer Kirt Hainzer says the visit also included a special cooking demonstration at Bundaberg's HSG at the Gardens Restaurant, to promote alternative ways of preparing sweet potato back in PNG.

Industry stop-overs included McCrystal Ag Nursery and Farm, Greensill Farm and WIndhum Farm. The project is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

"Sweet potatoes are a staple in PNG and are usually just parboiled or steamed," Mr Hainzer says.

"This week's visit provided the chance to showcase how we see sweet potatoes more as a specialty product and the various techniques used to cook it."

Mr Hainzer said sweet potato was increasingly competing with rice among the food choices of PNG residents.

"However this move towards rice is not in the best interest of PNG communities, as sweet potato is a lot more nutritious and is grown locally," he says.

"For many of our PNG visitors, this was the first time leaving their villages. We wanted them to gain the knowledge to expand and irrigate their farming operations and to make more money to support their families and communities.

"The project also has significant benefit to the Australian industry by providing a better understanding of the pests and diseases in PNG that could one day enter Australia, allowing industry here to be better prepared for these potential incursions."

"Both countries now grow clean seeds, which means fewer viruses in the sweet potatoes and less risk when they are being exported.

"By starting with virus-free planting material you often get a stronger crop. The cleaning of the virus and vines in PNG helps us identify potential pests before they come to Australia."