News Article:
“Coconut Sap May Find Global Niche Market in Cancer Medicine”

Mar 30th, 2008

Coconut sap may find global niche market in cancer medicine

 

The possibility of preserving coconut sap’s inositol, a Vitamin B complex component that prevents prostate cancer, is offering the Philippines a new niche for coconut in the international market.

Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Oscar Garin is focusing a research and development (R&D) effort on the preservation of inositol on coconut sap amid numerous studies proving the significant presence of this cancer-preventing substance in the sap.

First, PCA is contracting Ateneo de Manila University or the Food and Nutrition Research Institute to document inositol content on coconut sap.

Following this, the government agency will develop products that can ensure preservation of a significant amount of inositol on the sap which may be possible through the production of fresh coconut sap juice.

“Admin Garin is enthusiastic about developing technologies and methodologies that can preserve inositol,” said a PCA official in an interview.

Inositol, a dietary phytochemical present in cereals, soy, legumes, and fiber-rich foods, has long been known to suppress hormone-refractory prostate cancer growth.

And its presence will maximize marketing of coconut sap and is expected to likewise boost the market of a related product, coconut sap sugar, a sweetener good for diabetics which is already sought after as a health product in the United States.

PCA is further boosting marketing prospects of coconut products by accrediting producers and traders of coconut sap and coconut sap sugar.

PCA is also coordinating with the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Products Standards (BAFPS) to come up with a quality standard for coconut sap in order to protect product quality and likewise protect their producers.

An expansion of coconut sap production in General Santos; Aroman, South Cotabato, and Zamboanga is already on-going. Each of these three production centers should yield three metric tons of coconut sap per month.

While only 375 trees are productive sources of the sap and only from Aroman at present, PCA believes volume can readily be stepped up once markets will have been established in Japan and Canada.

While aiming to give livelihood to farmers originally under the Asian Development Bank-funded International Coconut Genetic Resource Center (Cogent), PCA is also ensuring that farmers will get their fair share of profit in this envisioned sustainable entrepreneurial project.

The export market for the country’s coconut sugar has started expanding since the completion last year of scientific studies showing that coconut sugar is a low glycemic index (GI) food. GI is a numerical system of measuring the effect of a carbohydrate on the circulating blood sugar.

While the Low GI is at 55, coconut sap sugar’s GI is far lower at only at 35.

Coconut sap sugar is foreseen to create numerous livelihood opportunities in rural areas as the process involves a simple farm level technology, but it is labor-intensive due to the coconut sap harvesting activity.

The entire Mindanao is seen as a big potential source of coconut sap sugar since it is where most hybrid coconuts have been planted. Hybrid coconut, which yields three to five MT per hectare compared to the Laguna variety, which only gives about one MT, enables high recovery rate for the granulated sugar.

A coconut sap or “tuba” contains 12 to 18 percent sugar.

PCA first came up with coconut sap sugar from a poverty reduction project in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental through Cogent. Farmers from Misamis Oriental were the first ones to produce the low GI food that is being exported to the US through a marketing effort of a Filipino doctor promoting the food’s health benefits. But PCA hopes to expand its production all over Mindanao .

By MELODY M. AGUIBA

Manila Bulletin

News ID: 11046