Shane Tutua is the co-owner/Manager of SolAgro Products, a Solomon Islands company that buys and sells edible Ngali nuts. The Ngali nuts also known as Canarium or Nangai nuts are a traditional food for Solomon Islanders providing an important source of protein.
Dr Tutua, who owns SolAgro along with three others, is a soil scientist by profession. Having little business experience himself, he decided to attend the Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand Path to Market workshop in Honiara in early August.
PTI NZ’s Path to Market programme is a structured approach to understanding the New Zealand market. Potential exporters are initially identified by local Economic Development Agencies (EDAs) such as the Chambers of Commerce and recommended for the workshop. Participants are selected on to the next step, to attend Auckland’s annual Pasifika Festival or a trade fair, followed by a Gap Analysis workshop, business site visits and business appointments with prospective clients.
“I thought it would be an opportunity to learn some tips on how to go about developing a product and exporting it,” Dr Tutua said.
SolAgro is only one of two businesses currently working on Ngali nuts in the Solomon Islands. SolAgro makes Ngali nuts into snacks, cooking ingredients or flavouring whilst the other company specialises in Ngali nut oil for cooking and other purposes.
Through the World Bank funded Rural Development Programme, SolAgro is working to build its own capacity and that of the growers to increase the production of Ngali nuts and market it both locally and overseas, Dr Tutua said.
They are working on organic certification through the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) with support from the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) to make the product more attractive to the market.
Forty families in Rendova supply Ngali nuts to the company. However, they would like to expand the operation to include other communities and other islands in the future as the market grows. The nuts are seasonal and harvested from September to February. Drying and baking the nuts lengthens shelf life to more than a year.
SolAgro purchases 800kg of nuts from the community who are producing at least three tonnes of dried Ngali nuts annually. They have exported Ngali nuts to New Caledonia since 2015 and now to Fiji starting this month.
Dr Tutua was positive about his experience in attending the Path to Market workshops:
“Workshops like this one are very important to build capacity in the export industry. For our business capacity building, especially in the skills and knowledge involved is a plus. For the community we work with, I believe if we can export the nuts it would bring more income to them, and therefore impact on their standard of living.
“We want to promote it as a traditional Melanesian food, with tourists in mind and as an organic or natural forest product,” Dr Tutua said.
“I think after the workshop I am becoming more aware of what to do and not to do in this business of trying to export the Ngali nut. I found out through this workshop that I made some mistakes already, and hope to correct them. One thing I appreciate most is how to do the pricing and I am more confident now about my pricing.”
Two workshops were held in the Solomon Islands recently delivered by PTI NZ Trade & Investment Commissioner Michael Greenslade and Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong. The second was held for the first time in Gizo. A third workshop was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
For more information please email: Ian Furlong, PTI Trade Development Manager on email@example.com