Jhon Muñoz cuts open a green cacay fruit with his pocket knife, smiling as its three little pods drop into his soil-sodden palm. Muñoz, 41, manages a 1090-acre cacay fruit farm in Colombia’s Orinoquia region, where he makes a living with this uncommon, yet multi-purpose tree that is native to the area.
Muñoz’ previously worked an entry-level job at Kahai, a company in Villavicencio that was just starting to explore whether developing the commercial uses of the cacay nut could make for a viable business.
The cacay fruit, similar in appearance to a lime on the outside, has three segmented nuts which can be consumed after processing or made into a nutritive flour or milk. The fruit also produces an oil, dubbed ‘Amazonian gold’, which is used for cosmetic purposes. The nut’s high content of vitamin A (retinol), vitamin E and vitamin F (linoleic acid) is said to have anti-aging properties.
Today, the company exports 3 tons of cacay oil worldwide to markets, including the United States, UK, South Korea, France, Spain, Australia, Canada and Thailand. Prices for high quality cacay oil are significant, with just 1 oz of cacay oil in the US often retailing at over $30.
“We’re the first area in the world to do it on a big scale,” says Kahai’s agricultural technician, Henry Sanchez. “We’re taking a Colombian nut from our biodiversity, from the Orinoquia and the Amazon, to the world.”
The company hopes to expand its exports in the coming few years, but they will need help to get there with regards to growing volumes, expanding their processing capacity, and securing new markets.