Sago, the staple diet of the Sepik people, to be commercialized!


Perhaps this is a worrying proposal. I can see dangers in the commercial exploitation of existing sago palms to the regular supply of sago available for the Sepik people. What do you think?


This article is from The Star Online (

Papua New Guinea is keen to develop its sago industry by learning from Sarawak’s experience.

Its Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, who is on a three-day working visit to Sarawak, said there were over one million sago plants in Papua New Guinea which had the potential to be developed.

“As to how to go about utilising this resource, we will learn from your experience,” he said recently.

Besides sago, he said that Papua New Guinea hoped to explore opportunities for cooperation in the food, rice and oil palm industries.

Somare and Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud later witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Independent Public Business Corporation of Papua New Guinea and Sarawak Land Custody and Development Authority.

Taib said that Sarawak would import sago flour from Papua New Guinea in the first stage of cooperation between the two states on sago develop–ment.

He said this would complement the state’s production of sago flour as many sago plantations in Sarawak had not reached maturity.

Sarawak currently has about 20,000ha of sago plantations.


  1. deberigny said,

    I heard someone the other day make the following comment: “I do not like the idea of any sagocommercialisation in the existing subsistence harvesting swamp areas… the effect on people who still lead a hunter and gatherer life is just too
    uncertain and difficult to predict; of course if you personally stand to
    make a few millions, who cares in these days of corrupt selfishness?”

  2. deberigny said,

    Paul’s email to me:

    Dear Dave, The info below is from a Wikipedia article that looks quite kosher. So, if the Sarawakians get moving on the proposal, there might not be all that much sago left in the Sepik by the year 2020! Bang goes the subsistence economy and the modest but important sago trading links that have been in existence for generations – the sago/fish exchange that operates along the Sepik , for example. Has there been a study assessing the amount of sago there is in the river basin , and how much can be extracted without damaging village life and the traditional economy? Regs, Paul

    “They are harvested at the age of 7 to 15 years just before they flower. They only flower and fruit once before they die. When harvested the stems are full of the stored starch which would otherwise be used for flowering and fruiting. The trunks are cut into sections and into halves and the starch is beaten or otherwise extracted from the “heartwood”, and in some traditional methods it is collected when it settles out of water. One palm yields 150 to 300kg of starch.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: