MORE THAN JUST CHOCOLATES

PhilMech unveils new products from cacao

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CACAO can be used to produce much more than just chocolate, the head of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) said, as the agricultural research and development agency unveiled a number of new products from the high-value crop.

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PhilMech Executive Director Dr. Dionisio Alvindia said the agency has developed several products from cacao that offer possibilities for growers and processors to venture into the production of finished products from the crop.

“From Cacao, the agency was able to produce various products such as vinegar, wine, and soft drinks,” Alvindia said.

Even the waste from the harvest can be utilized, Avindia said, describing how fuel briquettes can be produced in abundance from the large volume of cacao husks discarded each harvest season.

PhilMech discovered that sweatings, or drippings from cacao–usually thrown away by growers and processors–produced before the fermentation process of cacao beans can be used to produce vinegar, wine and soft drinks.

In its findings, PhilMech said the wine produced from cacao sweatings has an alcohol content of 10 to 12 percent, the vinegar has total tritratable acid of 4 to 5 percent, which meets Philippine legal standards, while the soft drinks produced had total soluble solids of 15 degrees Brix (a measure of sugar in a solution) that make them suitable for consumers.

And more importantly, Alvindia said, the products PhilMech produced from sweatings are safe for health, having low microbial load based on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards.

“Currently, PhilMech is undertaking financial analysis for the vinegar, wine, and soft drinks produced from cacao sweatings or drippings to determine the economies of scale from their production,” Alvindia said.

Fuel source

He also explained PhilMech’s bioprocess engineering division is set to conduct further study on cacao waste products to determine the feasibility of developing butanol, a key component of aviation fuel.

“Once PhilMech finds out the science on how to do it, the agency will tap the expertise of the Department of Energy and other related government agencies to study commercial production of butanol,” Alvindia said.

PhilMech has also developed fuel briquettes from cacao husks that are usually discarded by growers and processors.

About 70-75 percent of the weight of the cacao pod is from the husk that is usually discarded by growers and processors. PhilMech said an estimated volume of 3.382 million metric tons (MT) of cacao husks are thrown away every year.

In its cacao Research and Development Project in Davao City, PhilMech developed 13 formulations of cacao pod husk-based fuel briquettes using a piston-type briquetting machine.

The results showed that as the percent of the binding agent increases and particle size of pulverized cacao pod husk decreases, the bulk density, shatter resistance and break strength of fuel briquettes increases, making them burn more efficiently. The average heating value and thermal efficiency of the optimum formulation are 3,216.73 cal/g and 26 percent respectively, PhilMech explained.

“The utilization of cacao husks to produce fuel briquettes is a very good solution in addressing the waste problem from discarded husks. And with the country producing three million metric tons of discarded cacao husks every year, the production volume for the fuel briquettes looks promising,” Alvindia added.
Alvindia said the Philippines has an ideal climate for growing cacao.

He said the country has an annual requirement of about 30 MT of cacao, “but we are only able to produce around five to six metric tons and the difference is imported mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa.”

“The irony is that the best cacao we produce in the Davao region for instance is being exported to Europe.
They like our cacao because we are producing organic with good quality while we import substandard cacao for our chocolates,” Alvindia said.

He added that one of the big challenges in the industry is the improvement of the quality of cacao and the need to increase its production in the country.

“Our target for the Philippines is to be able to produce 100,000 metric tons annually by 2022 to be competitive if not at par with world leaders in cacao production,” Alvindia said.

At present, the country only produces about 0.6 kilograms per cacao tree per year compared with Africa and Indonesia, which produce two to three kilos per tree per year.

“We need to increase productivity and expand our production area while raising the quality and providing trainings for our farmers among others, and be included as among the world’s cacao producers,” Alvindia said.

The Davao region is the top cacao producer in the country followed by Zamboanga. The province of Maguindanao has also recently started shifting to the more profitable cacao crop.

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