With its sustained commitment to uplift the lives of farmers in the province and and attain inclusive and sustainable growth, the Provincial Government of Oriental Mindoro through its Provincial Agriculturist’s Office (PAgO) promotes value addition as a strategy to increase profitability from farming.
The Provincial Agri-processing Center was established at the Provincial Demo Farm as a component project of the DILG funded Project entitled: Provincial Demonstration Upgrading and Maintenance (Phase2) under the 2015 Performance Challenge Fund awarded to the Provincial Government -Provincial Agriculture Office (PAgO) on mid- 2016. The construction of the facility was completed on 2017. PGOM-PAgO was then able to sourced out fund from Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – MIMAROPA and Department of Agriculture (DA) – MIMAROPA to acquire and install equipment lines for the processing of banana, calamansi, coconut, rootcrops, and other emerging commodities. The Agri-processing Facility started its operation in 2018, equipped with a vacuum fryer, two (2) dehydrators and a spray dryer. Since then, PAgO in collaboration with MIMAROPA Food Innovation Center and DOST had painstakingly developed the food processing technologies of the banner commodities of the province and conducted several trainings.
In 2020, an enhancement and upgrading of the equipment line of the facility amounting to PhP 24M was approved under the Bayanihan II Stimulus Fund for Agriculture, as an initiative to stir economic recovery from the unparalleled devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is also expected to promote engagement in agricultural enterprises and stir rural economic development towards enhanced adaptive capacities of farming communities amidst the threat of the pandemic. It envisions to enhance farmers access to modern processing technology and equipment that will enable them to produce market-competitive and world class value-added products as well as to provide an enabling ecosystem for farmers to become agri-preneurs and level up farmers’ participation along the value chain for enhanced profit realization.
The freeze dryer is one of the innovative equipment recently installed. It utilizes drying process to dehydrate heat-sensitive foods or products with high commercial value. It is a relatively new technology in the field of preservation of agricultural produce. It extends storability by removing water from food products inhibiting the rate of deterioration while maintaining its quality (Oyinloye & Yoon, 2020). Freeze drying process has three main phases: (1) freezing or sub-cooling of product below its eutectic point (the lowest temperature at which a liquid can exist; -30°C and below); (2) dehydration (drying) by ice sublimation under vacuum, and; (3) completion of product drying up to moisture content lower than 3% by the normal vacuum drying (Savo, et al, 2012). Freeze drying is advantageous relative to conventional air-drying, because of the absence of heat in the process which allows it to preserve nutrients, structure, shape, and sensory characteristics (color, odor, taste, texture) of the produce (Savo, et al, 2012). It also minimizes packaging, storage, and transportation costs. Given these advantages and the growing market for dehydrated fruits and vegetables as demand shifts to healthy and natural products, banana and other emerging fruits in the province are well-positioned for freeze drying to increase shelf-life and market value translating to higher income for farmers.
Oriental Mindoro has an average annual aggregate production of 71,514.93 MT of banana, contributing 60.77% to the regional production from 2015 to 2019, hence dubbed as the Banana King of the MIMAROPA Region.
The Provincial Agriculturist’s Office (PAgO) is currently conducting product development of banana and other emerging commodities in the province using the newly-acquired freeze dryer. Process and products are being standardized to generate quality and market-competitive products that will be rolled out to farmers and rural-based organizations for adoption. The primary commodities tested were Saba (Cardaba), lakatan, and Señorita varieties and on process for development and standardization. Other emerging fruits such as mango, pineapple, watermelon, and papaya were also tested for freeze drying and will also undergo product and process standardization.
The freeze drying technology presents very promising opportunities to create viable livelihood for farmers, increase shelf life, improve market value and reduce postharvest spoilage and economic losses. With this initiative, the Provincial Government of Oriental Mindoro-PAgO fervently hopes to propel our farmers towards overall productivity and competitiveness.