Ampalaya as nutraceutical raw material

Ampalaya as nutraceutical raw material

Media Feature

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

Farm crops that people will not steal

Farm crops that people will not steal

Media Feature

Farming is not all enjoyment as some hobby farmers will tell you. It can also be exasperating.

Just like the case of a lady from San Pablo City who called us up one day. She was sulking because the bumper crop of lanzones that she was expecting to harvest a couple of weeks later had been stolen by poachers.

She swore not to plant lanzones again, and asked us what crops she should grow that people will not steal. Well, at that time, we suggested to her to plant hot chili. Which she did. Although chili can fetch a high price during certain months of the year, thieves will not usually bother about this crop because it takes a lot of time to harvest the tiny fruits. It’s not like lanzones that comes in big bunches.

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Patrick Roquel and Arsenio Pecho checking harvestable leaves of lagundi

Now, we have discovered some other money-making crops you can grow that people will not care to steal. During our recent trip to Batangas, we saw the coconut plantation of Arsenio Pecho in Tanauan City. He has partnered with Patrick Roquel and intercropped the coconut trees with Vitex negundo or lagundi.

They harvest the leaves every 45 days, dry them and supply the same to herbal manufacturers like Herbs and Nature and the Department of Health. A three-year-old lagundi tree can yield one kilo of leaves every 45 days. Since the leaves are not eaten like fruits, people don’t care to steal them.

Patrick has also rented a lanzones plantation where he planted citronella between the trees. The citronella plants are growing very well. The orchard owner is thankful, of course, because he gets a rent and at the same time his trees are also fertilized when Patrick fertilizes his citronella.

Patrick who has a processing facility in Tanauan City manufactures a mosquito repellant using citronella oil. His product which comes by the brandname of Citronella Andas is claimed to provide eight hours of protection from mosquitoes. It is one product to fight dengue.

Another herbal tree that Patrick is excited about is the tsaang gubat or Carmona retusa. Although, it is better known for its use in alleviating stomach problems in humans, he is more excited about its use for pets. For pet dogs, for instance, he claims it is good for treating intestinal parasites. He says it is also anti-spasmodic.

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Patrick Roquel (left) and Zac B. Sarian posing with tsaang gubat or carmona retusa which has medicinal properties

Other plants that thieves will not care to steal include the sambong, the akapulko, and other medicinal plants. If ever some people will get some, they will not harvest them in volume. Maybe, they will get some for their own immediate need which is not much.

Poaching is really rampant, especially in fruit tree plantations. Mango, durian, pummelo, and many other fruits are the favorite of thieves. So if you are an orchard owner, make sure to take the necessary measures so you will reap your just reward.

* Written by Zac Sarian and published in Manila Bulletin