Ampalaya as nutraceutical raw material

Ampalaya as nutraceutical raw material

Ampalaya nutraceuticals in the form of capsule and tea are fast becoming bestsellers in the local as well as foreign markets. And the prospects are bright for their continued popularity not just as food supplement. They are also perceived to have medicinal attributes not only for diabetes but also for other ailments.

Unfortunately, the raw materials used to make ampalaya capsule and tea have to be imported from abroad. Just like Herbcare Corporation which manufactures Charantia ampalaya nutraceuticals, for instance. The company spends precious dollars for importing dried ampalaya fruits from Vietnam.

And if you ask Lito Abelarde, Herbcare chairman, his fervent dream is for local farmers to produce their requirements. And he believes there is no reason why local farmers cannot. In fact, he said he had brought some seeds of the variety that he imports from Vietnam for trial planting in his farm in Laguna. And he reported that they were able to produce a respectable harvest from their trial planting.

Then he asked the help of East-West Seed Company which developed the E-W 242 variety that Vietnamese farmers grow in their farms and which Herbcare imports. This led to the trial planting of the same variety in the Yazaki Farm in Tanauan City. Last November 19, a field tour was conducted to show to visitors the plants at the Yazaki Farm, which proved to be promising. The plants are fruiting very well even without spraying them with chemical pesticide to protect them from insect damage.

Mr. Abelarde had sought the collaboration of East-West Seed because the variety from Vietnam is his preferred variety because of its special flavor. What he hopes to happen is a supply chain with no missing gaps. Which means that aside from the availability of the desired varieties, the production experts should also be there to provide the farmers with good agricultural practices.

Then there should be the consolidator who procures the fresh harvest from the farmers and dries or prepares them for the use of the manufacturers and marketers. For this purpose, Mr. Abelarde appreciates the likes of Patrick Roquel of Binhi Company that consolidates fresh harvests from farmers and supplies the semi-processed (dried) herbal materials to the manufacturers of nutraceutical products.
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Binhi has drying facilities in Natatas, Tanauan City to dry not only ampalaya fruits and leaves but also other herbal crops like lagundi, tsaang gubat, sambong, malunggay and others.

The industry, of course, also needs the support of government agencies that could conduct research that will meet the needs of the industry, as well as government policies that will enhance the growth of the business so that the farmers, the consolidators, the suppliers of inputs, the manufacturers and marketers will all get their due rewards. And of course, the consumers’ interest should also be served.

Mr. Abelarde stresses that the Philippines has rich resources in terms of raw materials for nutraceuticals as well as the talent of researchers and entrepreneurs that can exploit to the maximum the opportunities at hand.

The ampalaya field tour was also attended by a delegation from Bulacan led by Gigi Carillo, the provincial agriculturist. That’s because they are about to launch an ampalaya production program for rural development funded by an international agency.

At the field trial at the Yazaki Farm, Bonito was also grown alongside the E-W 242. This is a hybrid with smaller fruits than the common varieties with long fruits because it has the genes of the small-fruited variety from the Ilocos.
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Bonito also promises to be a good material for making herbal products like E-W 242 for a few good reasons. Although the fruits are smaller, the variety is so prolific that it can easily yield 30 or more tons of fruits per hectare. It is also resistant to the virus disease called ‘Namamarako’ and it produces a lot of leaves. The leaves are also processed into capsules and tea by herbal product manufacturers other than Herbcare.

* Written by Zac Sarian and published in Manila Bulletin

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