Agriculture figures as a significant force in the history of Papua New Guinea and Australia. Evidence from PNG’s Waghi Valley suggests that the area was home to some of the world’s first gardeners – some 7,000 years ago – with cultivation of plants, landscaping and irrigation.

Agriculture in Australia

Sugar cane harvesting. (Photo:

Agriculture remains a significant part of Australia’s economy, but as an ever-shrinking occupation for its workforce. Mechanisation and scale have enabled productivity growth alongside higher crop yields. As the Australian economy has broadened its base to include a bigger proportion of services and manufacturing activity, agriculture has declined in relative proportion.

Climate conditions including drought have had a big impact on Australia’s agricultural sector. Overall farm incomes are strong despite issues affecting particular sectors at times, such as dairy and live sheep and cattle exports.

Agriculture in Papua New Guinea

Gerehu Markets, Port Moresby. (Photo: Ness Kerton/DFAT)

Agriculture plays a dominant role in Papua New Guinea society and more than 80 percent of the country’s population is involved in subsistence agriculture to provide food and sustenance. There is strong local knowledge about growing food and keeping animals on traditional lands.

Formal agriculture is focused on the crops of coconut and oil palm, cocoa, coffee and vanilla. There are also substantial earnings from fisheries and forestry, where industry regulation has been overshadowed by challenges of regulation and oversight. There is limited recent data to detail PNG’s agricultural production, and issues about land ownership and access have made large-scale projects difficult to establish. Due to the reliance on subsistence farming, environmental issues such as droughts have had a big impact on food security in heavily populated areas such as the Highlands.

Links & Resources

Papua New Guinea Links

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation provides useful statistics and information about agriculture and food production programs in PNG.

The Pacific Agricultural Policy Bank maintains reference documents and plans about member country agricultural policies.

PNG’s National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) is based in Lae and promotes agricultural development through scientific research, knowledge creation and information exchange.

The Coffee Industry Corporation represents coffee growers, traders and exporters in PNG.

The PNG coconut industry is overseen and represented by the Kokonas Indastri Koporesen.

The Cocoa Board of Papua New Guinea oversees the industry’s operation and manages research programs.

The National Fisheries Authority of PNG manages and regulates the country’s fishing industry.

Australia Links

Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Security oversees a range of agencies and programs related to Australia’s agricultural, farming and export commodity industries.

Within the department, the Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) generates and compiles statistics and analysis on the country’s agricultural sector and publishes an annual ‘outlook’ report assessing industry performance and trends.

The National Farmers Federation is the peak body for Australia’s agricultural industries.

The role of agriculture in Australia’s economy is summarised in this article.


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Emerging Leader Participants

Cooper Schouten - Apiculture Development Specialist and PhD Candidate - Lowy Institute

Cooper Schouten

Apiculture Development Specialist and PhD Candidate

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Cooper Schouten is an Apicultural Development Professional, with experience working in PNG with development organisations to support projects in beekeeping and honey production. Cooper also coordinates research programs in PNG and Fiji with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. He holds a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours from Southern Cross University, where he is a casual academic and second year PhD candidate.

Elizabeth Brennan - Program Coordinator, Transformative Agriculture and Enterprise Development Program (TADEP) - Lowy Institute

Elizabeth Brennan

Program Coordinator, Transformative Agriculture and Enterprise Development Program (TADEP)

ELD Year:


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Elizabeth coordinates a multidisciplinary agricultural research program in PNG on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and has also led the marketing strategy development and implementation for one of the largest citrus operations in WA, Moora Citrus. Elizabeth is a Commissioner for the Agricultural Produce Commission, RRR Women’s Network of WA Board Director, forms part of the Farmers for Climate Action ‘Rural Futures Taskforce’, is a mentor for the Australia Awards DFAT Women’s Leadership Initiative and volunteers on many agricultural advisory groups and committees. She was a Board Director with Australian Women in Agriculture for five years, being elected as Vice President, President and Company Secretary during her tenure. Elizabeth is a Fellow with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, was awarded Most Outstanding Emerging Leader at the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 in 2014 and was awarded 2016 WA Young Achiever of the Year for her voluntary and community contributions.

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