dried coconut meat, new plots, coastal lowlands, subsistence farmers, important economic activity
Agriculture, performed mainly at a subsistence level, is the most important economic activity in Papua New Guinea. More than two-thirds of the working-age population are subsistence farmers, growing crops to meet their own needs and not to trade for currency. Typically, villagers create their subsistence gardens by slash-and-burn methods—periodically clearing and planting new plots in the forest, while the land most recently farmed is allowed to revert to bush so the soil can regain its fertility. Coconuts, bananas, taro, and yams are important food crops; sweet potatoes, which originated in South America, are particularly important in the highlands. Other fruits and vegetables are also grown. Pigs are a highly prized food and are eaten at village feasts. Subsistence fishing and hunting are also important agricultural activities.
Villagers occasionally grow crops for export, although most commercial crops are raised on plantations. In the early 1990s, agriculture accounted for about 9 percent of export earnings. Coconut palms, which supply copra (dried coconut meat) and coconut oil, are important in the coastal lowlands. Other lowland export crops are cacao, rubber, and oil palms. In the highlands, coffee is the most important commercial crop; some tea is also grown. These export crops are produced on Australian-owned plantations, which typically hire wage laborers from nearby villages. The government has promoted export crops over food crops, which has forced the growing urban population to depend increasingly on imported foods.
Article key phrases: