THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is pushing for the creation of a niche market for adlai or adlay to encourage more farmers to plant the grain, which is known for its nutritional value.
Adlai, known as “Job’s tears” in most of East and Southeast Asia, belongs to the same family of grasses or weeds such as wheat, corn, and rice.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala declared adlai, which was recently included in
the DA’s mainstream research and development program, as one of the country’s best-kept secrets and a potent weapon against hunger in a “climate-changed world.”
“Given that we are in an El Nino year, adlai gains greater relevance as a drought-resistant staple crop,” Alcala said in a statement.
“I came to know and tasted adlai through a friend from Mindanao. We were worrying about an impending El Nino in the province, and he told me about this drought resistant crop from where he came from which was both delicious and nutritious. And he was right. From then on, I started to patronize it. We brought some seeds to Quezon and propagated it there,” he added.
It was the reason, he said, that upon his appointment as DA chief, one of his first acts was to order research and development on the adaptability and propagation of the crop in all DA research stations nationwide, and to create new adlai-based products.
Given the versatility of the grain, Alacala also said the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) will spearhead a study on how to package and sell adlai, both here and abroad, as a high-fiber cereal suited for weight-conscious people.
Alcala is initially eyeing Japan as a possible market for the grain, as there have already been Japanese importers who expressed a strong interest to buy the commodity when they visited the country in 2012.
The agriculture chief cited several studies that suggest adlai contains three times more calories and nearly six times more protein compared to rice. Apart from its nutritional value, adlai has been known to cure diabetes and some types of allergies.
Since 2010, DA has been promoting adlai as a staple food under its food security blueprint called the Food Staples Sufficiency Program.
Part of the initial efforts was the conduct of adaptability trials led by DA-BAR in strategic locations nationwide to assess the performance of the different varieties of adlai. These areas include Region 9 (Midsalip in Zamboanga del Sur); Region 4A (Lipa City, Batangas); Region 5 (Pili, Camarines Sur); Region 2 (Ilagan, Isabela) and Region 10 (Malaybalay in Bukidnon).
In these trials, 11 adlai varieties were identified: gulian, kinampay (ginampay), pulot (or tapol), linay, mataslai, agle gestakyan, NOMIARC dwarf, jalayhay, and ag-gey. From these varieties, three are commonly grown and found in the country: gulian, kinampay (or ginampay), pulot (or tapol).
DA-BAR is currently coordinating 32 adlai-related projects involving state colleges and universities and other R&D institutions across the country.
Jennifer Remoquillo, DA’s national coordinator for high-value crops development program, said that the adlai program revolves around three central tasks – to encourage increased consumption of the cereal in various product forms; area expansion and achieve better yields through continuous technology demonstrations and making quality seeds available to farmers; and promotion of better harvest and postharvest practices and facilities.
For the past two years, DA has allocated P26 million for these activities, including P16 million for 2014.