Griffith University: Australian researchers to crack growing nut industry

Griffith University researchers are helping Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) emerging galip nut industry to give marginalised women an income and encourage planting trees.

Professor Helen Wallace from the Centre for Planetary Health and Food Security is leading a diverse team of science, agribusiness and social research experts from both Australia and PNG, including partners from the University and the National Agricultural Research Institute, to expand private sector investment in the Canarium indicum or galip nut.

Professor Helen Wallace from the Centre for Planetary Health and Food Security
“Globally the nut sector is growing around five per cent each year driven by veganism and the health benefits of eating plant-based protein,” Professor Wallace said.

“But only five types of nuts make up 90% of global trade and we want to add the galip nut into the mix.”

More than 80% of galip nut suppliers in PNG are small-hold farmers relying on family labour and live in very remote locations with little access to distant markets.

The galip nut, which resembles an almond when peeled, can be dried, stored and shipped to distant markets making it an ideal cash crop.

Professor Wallace says in PNG looking after galip nut is traditionally women’s work and women have really benefited from this growing industry.

“They are involved across the supply chain, from cultivation and harvesting to processing and selling. By scaling up the market we will empower even more women to participate.”

Professor Wallace led the initial project to establish a pilot factory and tested a range of technologies for canarium nut processing.

“Working with key partners in the government and private sector, we’ve seen supply triple and grow to a farm gate value of $100,000 AUD in just three years. But there’s more work to be done.

“Other investors have used our research to set up their own operation and started buying from farmers. This means more income for thousands of farmers in PNG, and also encourages people to keep native galip trees in their gardens and forests.”

Professor Wallace says the decentralised supply network makes collecting large volumes of product difficult. Her team will test more efficient harvest and collection systems.

“The industry will also benefit from moving towards buying nut-in-shell rather than the current arrangement where most of the product is wasted. Small-scale entrepreneurs are set to benefit out of this move.”

A formal market has been established in Port Moresby selling packaged natural, roasted and peeled products into supermarkets and duty free stores, and private investors are cautiously but optimistically approaching the industry.

“There’s a lot of strong interest in the galip nut industry with many keen to be involved in an indigenous product made in PNG with significant economic benefits for smallholder farmers.

“Our job is to provide stronger evidence of the commercial viability of large scale canarium nut processing and pathways to domestic and international markets.”