The National, Tuesday May 26th, 2015
By Dalsie Hannett
The driving force behind commercial agriculture in Papua New Guinea has always been export crops.
This trend will no doubt continue to dominate the development of the sector in the future.
Agricultural products make up 18 per cent of the country’s exports.
At present, more than 90 per cent of the value of agriculture export comes from four crops – coffee, cocoa, oil palm and kernels, and coconuts (copra) and most are grown by smallholders.
Other export commodities include tea, cardamon and rubber.
There is considerable potential for the expansion and development of many more crops for export.
The development of Canarium or galip nut by the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) is by far a great learning experience and a stepping stone towards developing other indigenous tree crops like okari nut, taun, pau, bread fruit and pandanus (known locally as karuka and marita)
With galip nut emerging as a new cash crop for the country, the desire to process and export quality galip products is of paramount importance and has to be instilled from the start.
To ensure that the galip produce is of high quality, every step in the process which, includes harvesting, nut in shell processing, kernel processing and storage through to packaging must comply with all food quality and food safety requirements.
The quality of the nut starts to deteriorate after it falls; therefore, it has to be collected immediately.
The longer it stays on the ground, the lower the quality becomes.
It is crucial because it affects the texture, colour and tastes of the nut.
Galip nuts must be fresh, free from mould and foreign material, crunchy, and have good odour and be appealing to the eye.
Sanitation is required to promote sales and minimise microbial contamination so that the galip products are fit for human consumption.
Food safety management systems encompasses quality Control and assurance systems.
Quality control is making sure the product is of acceptable quality without defects, while quality assurance refers to the acceptable standards applied in the processes of production.
These two systems are important for achieving quality products.
Having these two components established in the galip industry will reduce the distribution of inferior or unsafe products.
As the new industry develops health and safety issues will surface such as allergies associated with nuts and aflatoxin.
Aflatoxin is the contaminants produced by certain fungus or moulds in a wide range of raw food commodities.
They usually arise if the drying and storage conditions of the raw commodity are not adequate. NARI has developed processes to ensure that the processing of the galip nut is done in an hygienic and sanitised environment.
Operating procedures, standards and critical control points have been identified and good manufacturing practices are being developed for all stakeholders that will be involved in the galip industry.
However, there is an urgent need to establish a regulatory body that is responsible to control and regulate industry standards, quality control and quality assurance from day one.
While most quality issues can be addressed at the farm or factory, a legal framework is needed.
This requires the establishment of policies and regulatory agencies to ensure quality and fair play in the market.
For example major agriculture commodities have commodity boards that regulate and ensure fair play in the market, while the traders and exporters do all the quality control and quality assurance.
The new galip nut industry will need a similar arrangement at the start so that industry is regulated and protected to instil consumer confidence.
To establish a good reputation, the galip export product must maintain consistent market quality standards.
Inconsistent quality could jeopardise future sales and markets can be lost.
A market lost will take years to retain.
PNG must learn from the vanilla boom and its total collapse due to lack of quality control and quality assurance.