Coco sugar has good prospects
by Marjorie M. Arriola - Friday, 10 June 2011, 09:31 AM
Manila Bulletin, June 3, 2011, 3:53pm

MANILA, Philippines -- We just received a copy of the profitability analysis of a coconut sap sugar production module from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD). By the looks of it, coconut sugar production where there are coconut plantations can be a promising venture.

The coconut sap sugar is one product that the Philippines can focus on for the export as well as the local market. It is something very special because of its claimed health-enhancing attributes. It is said to have a low glycemic index (Gi), making it the ideal natural sweetener for diabetics.

Actually there is an increasing number of entrepreneurs who have gone into commercial coco sugar production, pioneered by a lady from Misamis Oriental more than 10 years ago. Coco sugar production involves the cooking of the toddy or sap from the unopened inflorescence of the coconut.

What is great about coco sugar production is that it can be adopted as a village level enterprise. Of course, it could also be set up as a medium-scale enterprise. Just like the module that PCARRD presented in this profitability analysis publication.

The PCARRD module calls for an initial investment of P1.42 million. This can yield an average annual net profit amounting to P201,762.48. Based on the projected 10-year income statement and cash flow, before financing, income is realized on the first year of operation. The initial investment can be fully recovered in 3.64 years.

The PCARRD publication is complete with a package of technology. It emphasizes that making coco sugar is a simple farm-level technology involving a natural process of heat evaporation to convert liquid sap to solid form of sugar granules.

Here are the steps in tapping. Select bearing trees with healthy unopened inflorescence. Bend the mature unopened inflorescence downward for one week to allow the flow of the sap after tapping. Tie the inflorescence with plastic twine and slowly pull it downward. Using a sharp knife, tap the inflorescence by slicing at least 6 mm to cut the tissues and eventually allow the surge of the sap. When the tip of the unopened coconut inflorescence is cut out, the sap slowly flows out.

Collection of the Sap – After slicing the unopened inflorescence, collect the liquid sap oozing out with the use of a plastic vessel. The collected sugar-liquid has about 12-18 percent sugar content. Coconut sap is known to contain important amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. To avoid the fermentation of the fresh sap, start its collection 5 hours after tapping. A total of 850 liters of sap ready for processing can produce 100 kilos of sugar.

Heat Evaporation – Boil the collected sap up to 115 degrees Celsius using a brick-fabricated oven locally known as “pugon.” The oven has improvised chimney where smoke will be emitted to ensure smoke-free smelling sugar. When the liquid is already boiling the scum will come out and this has to be removed to avoid the formation of dark residues on the final product. The boiling of the sap will take about 3-4 hours to remove water, leaving the sugar content of the coconut sap.

Conversion of Sap Syrup to Sap Sugar – Transfer the liquid to food grade stainless wok when it turns into syrup. Stir the syrup continuously to avoid burning and to ensure granulation. At this phase, the liquid will change into solid form, hence, temperature change is critical. Stirring allows air to enter the sticky syrup that will cause the gradual cooling resulting in granulation. Remove the wok from the fire and transfer it to a wooden trivet. Stir until the sugar granules are formed.

Sieving and Drying the Coconut Sap Sugar – Let the sugar cool off and continue pressing to break the lumps. Sieve the sugar to have uniform particle size to produce quality product. Put the sugar granules in a food grade stainless tray and let dry for one hour to lessen the moisture content.

Weighing and Packaging – Collect the sugar in a big container and store overnight. Weigh and pack the sugar using the commercially available transparent polyethylene plastic bags (.03 in x 8 in x 5 in).

Coconut sugar from the Philippines is now exported to the US, Japan and the Middle East. This comes mainly from Mindanao but more entrepreneurs from other places are also making coco sugar now.


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