A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
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Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
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Mr Herman Francisco
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Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
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Mr Finao Pole
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Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Posted 11:23 PM by Luigi
GOING NUTS OVER NANGAI
From Island Business.
It is of little exaggeration that leading Port Vila spice exporter, Charles Long Wah, is going nuts over nangai nuts. Indeed, the businessman believes the nuts, otherwise known as canarium indicum, is the most lucrative crop in Vanuatu.
As it is, Wah says suppliers like him can't even meet local demand and supplies have to be boosted dramatically if they have to satisfy overseas markets as well.“At the moment, we supply hotels, restaurants, shops and we cannot satisfy them all. The local market outstrips what we can supply,” says Wah.
Spending over a quarter of his life on studying the nuts, figures fall off Wah's mouth easily. Fully exploited, the man believes the nuts can employ up to 100,000 people, that's just about half of Vanuatu's population! Locals currently supply 160 tonnes of nangai nuts each year, which is a mere five percent of all nangai nuts available in the country. Since nangai trees grow wild in Vanuatu (as well as in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea) and due to poor harvesting techniques, Wah says half-a-million tonnes go to waste every year. With prices hovering at around A$5000 a tonne, that's a whooping AUS$2.5 billion litter!
“The main problem we've got at the moment is with the price of around A$5000 a tonne, the farmers harvest, they crack the nuts, they load them in the plane, and when they get the money, they don't want to work again because it's one of the highest incomes they ever had. It's very difficult.”Things are about to change though. With the help of AusAID, Wah has been contracted to hold training on harvesting and processing of the nuts in Vanuatu, and very soon the Solomon Islands and most probably Papua New Guinea. By his estimate, more nangai trees grow wild in the other two Melanesian countries: some two million in the Solomons and 10 million in PNG, compared to half a million only in Vanuatu. AusAID too is assisting in the processing of the nuts and this will enable Wah to move from a home-based processor to a factory-based one.
“AusAID experts were here (recently) to finalise all the equipment, the packaging and marketing. “Australia is going to buy all our produce in the next few months. “At the moment everything is home-made, but we are going to a factory soon because AusAID is going to fund every equipment and train people in the island on how to do it.”Like everything else Wah does, developing the nangai nuts market in Vanuatu has been largely a one-man effort, with hardly any contribution from the Vanuatu Government. This is nothing new for Wah, whose self-driven work on kava and nangai nuts won him a gold exporters award in Europe in 2004. He still remembers his days as a radio announcer in the early 1970s with then Radio Vanuatu, where he used to promote kava cultivation.
“On many occasions during news time, I would tell listeners to go and plant kava because we were not allowed to drink in pubs in those days, only whites were allowed to. “Go and plant your traditional drink, I would tell them, and it picked up because at that time majority of the kava was destroyed by the missionaries. When missionaries arrived here, they said kava was a devil's drink.“So kava was destroyed and many islands had no more kava plants. Only a few islands had them, islands like Pentecost, Tanna, and a few areas on Santo. “I was promoting every woman to plant 500 bush kava, every man, a thousand and the next year, I kept telling them, keep on planting. And since the last 35 years, we have become the largest exporter of kava in the Pacific.”
Wah is now telling ni-Vanuatu to plant 365 nangai trees a year, a tree a day.
“If you have 365 trees, it can contribute $50 per tree, and that's nearly $20,000 a year. “This is not value added. If it's value added, it will be much more. Besides, nangai trees growing in Melanesia are very deep-rooted and if you have a cyclone this year, it destroys the nuts and we won't have any nuts. But next year it will provide you with two harvests.”
Years of experimenting led the Port Vila businessman to extend the shelf life of the nuts sold in bottles to two years. He's still working on plastic packaging whose shelf life span is currently limited to six months.
He agrees that value-added is the way to go. To illustrate this, Wah says that value-adding which at the moment primarily consists of roasting the nuts and coating them with sugar or honey, or even chocolate, boosts prices from $5000 a tonne to more than $17,000 per tonne!Because of this, Wah believes the central government ought to promote and help develop the local nangai nuts market. According to him, promoting low value crops like taro and manioc (cassava) will only exacerbate poverty in rural Vanuatu.
“A typical example is if you take North Efate where a man plants tapioca (manioc), it will take him six months, and when it's ready, he hires a Hilux (pick-up) to come and take the manioc to the factory. “The driver says the road is no good, and he can only take a tonne although the Hilux can take one tonne. He will load a tonne, or 500 kilos to the factory. “It costs him 8000 Vatu to go down to the factory with his load, and cost him 2000 Vatu to go back to the village. And he gets 20 cents per kilo. “He hasn't made a single profit on it. Automatically he creates poverty. “The problem is we are so isolated in the Pacific, we should value add the products. “Many developments in Vanuatu at this moment are not profitable. It just creates poverty and accelerates urban drift.”
Meanwhile. Vanuatu took delivery of its new agricultural college built in Luganville on Santo Island by the Chinese Government. The school block and adjoining accommodation complex were handed over to local government officials last March. The complex cost the Chinese US$3 million.
The Ministry of Agriculture hopes the college will be able to host students from other Pacific islands too.
Higher world prices are keeping the local industry buoyant. The current prices are still higher than the 2003 price at US$344.1 per ton, says the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu in its quarterly economic review of December 2004. World market prices coupled with imports from Kiribati and the Solomon Islands took copra production last year to around 30,000 tons, although the Coconut Oil Product Limited mill in Santo can take up to 50,000 tons.
Minister for Agriculture Barak Sope is now considering banning the export of live cattle to Indonesia due to its impact on beef export. The Santo abattoir says it's finding it difficult to meet its export targets due to the mass export of live animals by another Santo-based company. The Reserve Bank says over 3000 heads were exported in 2004.
By the last quarter of 2004, the Reserve Bank noted a 2280 tons increase in kava exports than the previous quarter, mainly bound for Fiji and New Caledonia. The country's leading exporter Charles Long Wah estimates Vanuatu consumes 6000 tons of green kava a year, half of that in Port Vila alone.
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