The Baniata Community Organic Ngalinut -growers of Rendova Island, Western Province are a step closer to having their traditionally baked ngali nuts certified under the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETcom) Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) standards fortnight ago.
This followed a four day visit by (POETcom) certifying agents from Kastom Gaden and the intending exporter representative, Dr Shane Tutua to Baniata Village from 14th -17th December.
The main aim of the visit was to assess risks relating to food safety in terms of using traditional methods of baking ngalinut kernels in stone oven (motu), sanitation of food handling, equipment used, containers and even cleaning agents used as well as premises used for the preparation and storage of the baked nuts before shipping to Honiara for further packaging for export to New Caledonia.
Nut lovers of New Caledonia were introduced to tasting the traditionally baked ngali-nut by Dr. Shane a year ago when he took samples to a major specialist food shop chain in Noumea.
This food chain outlet sells, amongst other foods, specialises in different well-know nuts but always on the look-out for new entries such as our ngalinut. Their verdict after tasting baked ngalinut from Baniata was – they want more. The only other request is to have the nuts certified under PGS of POETcom.
To this end, officers of POETcom together with KGA staff had initiated training on awareness of organic and PGS standards and practices in June this year with over 20 farmers registered and their ngalinut growing areas inspected, registered and certified as organic farm sites.
At the same time, the Baniata Community Organic Committee (BCOC) was established and certification coordinators appointed to help the community with the PGS certification process.
This recent visit was to take up the next challenge relating to actual processing of the nuts and ensure that it meets international food safety standards.
The other aim was to follow-up on maintenance (compliance) with the requirements of certification that they had learnt during the June visit.
The challenge is there – keeping the traditional method of baking the nuts, which consumers in Noumea like, while satisfying food safety requirements, especially consumers who are yet to acquire the taste for ngalinuts baked in a traditional Solomon Islands way.
A second challenge for the team is the fact that this will be the first time ever in the world to develop and establish an “organic traditional processing standard and associated procedures” for “wild harvest” category under one of the POETcom organic production systems, using traditional ways of baking.
Despite the above challenges, the team is greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm and dedication shown by the Baniata community to succeed so that they will have a more valuable and sustainable resource which is abundant as supplementary source of income to copra and food markets.
Further guidance on food safety is expected from Health Division who will participate in the next visit to finalise the processing standards before the final inspection and audit which planned during the next season, will certify traditionally baked Ngalinuts from Baniata Community Organic Ngalinut growers is certified organic under the POETcom PGS method.
Baniata Community Organic Committee and KGA thanked the support and funding EU-IACT /SPC Program for funding this visit and the facilitation by POETcom in enabling KGA to conduct this important step of the certification process.
Speaking on behalf of the community, Haylis Alick (designated certification manager for BCOC), thanked those providing the funds and the team for the visit and up-dating them on the requirements and progress of certification.
He assured the team that there is abundant supply of nuts in Baniata and hopes that they will supply of the market.
He also added that more growers are expected to join, attend training and register with DCOC. At the same time there is growing interest to plant better varieties as currently, they are harvesting what their ancestors have planted or spread by kurukuru and flying foxes.
In the meantime, Dr Shane Tutua, Trading as Sol Agro Products is working closely with the Baniata Community Organic Committee by injecting part of the profits from the export to build their capacity to maintain and comply with the certification requirements.
Additionally, he will be seeking funding support to implement and modifications to the facilities, training on quality and organic farming in general that may be recommended by POETcom and its National Focal Point or agent, KGA as an outcome of the visit.
The visiting team consisted KGA officers, Moses Pelomo (Interim Solomon Islands National Organic Certification Manager, Ronstard Gapu Project Support Officer (Value Adding) and Roselyn Kabu PSO (Woment Health and Nutrition); Dr Shane Tutua represented Sol Agro Products while Shanely Bilusi came on behalf of Zai na Tina Organic Farm.
The next effort by the team will be introductory visit to the highlands of Guadalcanal in the second week of January 2016 to start involving the coffee growers there to have their coffee farms and beans certified organic.
This will later be followed by visits to coffee growers in Malaita and Isabel Provinces. By mid-year, our target will be cocoa growers who have made trading linkages with buyers of organic cocoa overseas.