Galip – A nut that is cracking the market

Today about seven percent of domesticated plant species are used as food crops with only a few such as rice and wheat contributing a greater proportion of the world’s food supply. However at the national or regional levels, indigenous species with potential to enhance food and nutritional security are often neglected. Since there is very little scientific knowledge about their uses and potentials, wider domestication and development of such crops have been lagging. Canarium nut or galip, as it is called in Pidgin, is one such crop. Years of NARI’s research into galip have been boosted recently by funding from the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research. In the past three years, NARI has partnered with selected Australian universities to successfully develop and launch new galip nut product brands, in PNG.

Galip is a tree that could grow to a height of some 20m from self-sown or cultivated seedlings. Archaeological records have it as one of the oldest domesticated nuts in Melanesia with its use dating back thousands of years before agriculture started in New Guinea. The species spread ranges from East Indonesia in Asia to Melanesia in the Pacific. In PNG, the crop grows best from sea level up to an altitude of 500m.

Over the years, NARI tried to identify potential supply bases, markets and types of galip products to develop. It has been estimated that we have about one million galip nut trees with the potential to produce close to 7, 200 tonnes of kernel, annually. This could be worth over US$20 million.

The main areas identified with potential to sustain supply for a galip nut industry included provinces in the Momase and New Guinea Islands regions. Since 2008, NARI has been distributing seedlings from locally selected trees to farmers to encourage better planting systems and yields., This effort has been especially prominent in East New Britain province where galip farming has been eagerly embraced and integrated by cocoa and copra farmers, as an alternative crop. 

NARI has demonstrated over the last three years that there is sufficient supply of galip from both farmed and self-sown tress in the targeted provinces. Data collected during galip nut season shows that production has risen from just 11 tonnes in 2015 to 230 tonnes and over 900 active farmers in 2018. The potential to establish a galip nut industry in PNG looks promising.

Galip products must meet national and international quality and safety standard in order to take advantage of a growing demand for unique local products. To tap into this opportunity, NARI has established a Galip Nut Company to oversee much needed market research and product development strategies. In May last year, the company officially launched three galip nut products, in Kokopo. This marked a significant milestone for NARI and boost for the new galip industry.

The launched galip nut brands include ‘Natural Galip Nut’ ‘Roasted Galip Nut’ and ‘Peeled Galip Nut’. The first product contains dried kernels with testa (the inner brown covering) packaged in 100g and one kilogram sachets. The second features 60g and 100g sachets of dried kernels with testa seasoned with salt and sugar.  The third product offers peeled, dried kernels in 60g and 100g sachets. All products could be used as snacks as well as cooking ingredients

A historical shipment of galip products was done through an arrangement with the City Pharmacy Ltd for an in-shop launch in Port Moresby, in July 2018. Limited stocks of galip products are now selling in Rabaul, Kokopo and Port Moresby, at very competitive prices.

By developing the first three product lines, the project has been able to address certain key challenges, apart from constraints related to cultivation and supply. In terms of processing facilities, a first of its kind mechanical nut cracker was developed and installed at the Kerevat factory in February 2018. Since then, the rate of shelling has improved from about 12.5 kilograms to more than two tonnes of kernel per hour.

A modified fruit juicing machine was also installed. It has enhanced the rate of pulping from 250kg to about a tonne of kernel per hour. Currently, work is underway on small portable nut processing plants for village-based downstream processing. These will be made available soon in the coming months.

A semi solar dryer has been developed to improve drying of large volumes of wet nuts (in shells), at low temperatures. Now up to three tonnes of nuts can be dried to around 3-4% moister content, at any one time.. This has also helped to extend storage life of dried kernels to more than six months.

NARI has done fairly well in development the galip product and its value chain. While there are still major challenges ahead, there is already great interest among potential investors in PNG’s fledgling galip nut industry. This has been demonstrated through the recent signing of an agreement between the institute and a New Zealand-based company. Under this arrangement, the company will commercially lease NARI’s pilot galip factory and conduct independent economic surveys, over a six months period. This would enable both the investors and us to ascertain the viability of long term investment in galip nut, in years to come.