The Kaukau Trade
By: Dan Harris
The majority of kaukau (sweet potatoe) that you see in the local markers in Port Moresby come all the way from the highlands, mainly Goroka and Hagen.
The bags are packed by farmers and sold to buyers who have connections with individual wholesalers in the nations capital. The one major obstacle is getting them down from the highlands to Lae ports for shipment to Port Moresby.
So how do you solve that? Trucks with empty containers assist the buyers who wait along the highlands highway and flag the trucks down to transport the bags of kaukau to Lae wharf. About 150 bags can fit a 20ft container. However trying to wave down a truck has its own problems and many times truck drivers are unable to help leaving the buyer to wait for hours to try his luck on another passing truck. It simply is hard work.
When you think about it, all that effort over the years has ensured that families in Pom are fed and in return ensuring the sustainability of the trade and continued supply of kaukau and veges all the way from the highlands.
Shipping firms such as Consort and Bismark have helped by providing the buyers with special containers to ship the produce to POM. These containers have slits cut along the sides of the container for ventilation to prevent sweating which can spoil the product. Once the bags reach Motukea wharf, the owner of the bags who normally reside in the city get to work and arrange to load the bags onto Dyna trucks for distribution to local markets throughout the city.
It is quite a well organised trade but one that needs innovation to help improve the supply chain and potentially help farmers participate in the export market of kaukau and other home grown vegetables. We have the land and the manpower to achieve that, it only takes vision, willing investors and the people to return to the land in order to participate and help export our products to overseas markets and meet international food demands.