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DA pushes yacon production in Bicol for Japan market
by Joeven C. Calasagsag - Friday, 4 November 2011, 05:58 PM
balita.ph; November 3, 2011 9:45 pm

PILI, Camarines Sur, Nov. 2 – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is pushing commercial production of yacon as its Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) sees the great potential of the crop as another export commodity to Japan.

Japan already imports raw yacon from the Philippines as a succulent ready-to-eat product like raw singkamas–jicama or Mexican turnip– that the Japanese eat as salad and its other products had a good commercial potential when its phytochemical health components are emphasized, BAR Director Nicomedes Eleazar, in a statement here Wednesday said.

Yacon is a perennial plant traditionally grown for its crisp, sweet-tasting edible tuberous tubers that contain inulin, an indigestible sugar, which means that although they have a sweet flavor, the tubers contain fewer calories than expected. Apart from its being known as a regulator of blood sugar, yacon is also known for preventing colon cancer.

Inulins belong to a class of fiber called fructans and it is used as a storage for energy by some plants through the roots or rhizomes.

The BAR has been conducting research for yacon processing and organic farming of yacon may also be a focus of its commercialization as the Japan market discriminates in favor of organic food produced without much chemical fertilizer or pesticides, Eleazar said.

The processing will add value to the crop and will potentially increase farmers’ income in small-scale cropping systems where inputs like fertilizer are not a necessity, he added.

According to DA regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao here, yacon farming can be attractive to Bicol farmers. While sweet potato or camote, one of the region’s main products may just be priced P8 per kilo at farm gate, yacon’s price can peak to as high as P80 to P100 per kilo during off season.

As a largely agricultural region, Bicol had a big potential of becoming the country’s leading producer of yacon as its propagation roots grow just under the soil surface and produce new growing points that will become next year's aerial parts. It can be intercropped with coconut and pili, the two flagship products of the region, Dayao said.

Eleazar said producers of anti-diabetes yacon juice, tea, and wine eye the Japan market for their phytochemical-rich foods that are now being pilot-tested for commercial scale production citing an initiative of food science experts of the Nueva Vizcaya State University’s (NVSU) Technology Business Incubator (TBI).

NVSU is jumpstarting yacon’s commercial scale production through a bigger 100-kilo food processing from an earlier limited 10-kilo scale.“This volume will make commercial scale production more realistic than laboratory stage. It will be evaluated for ROI (return on investment),” he said.

NVSU is funding the pilot yacon production, while the BAR has a separate research using the Commission on Higher Education-funded P1.2 million TBI facilities.

Yacon’s other known health benefits due to its oligofructans and phenolic contents are skin rejuvenation, reduction of blood triglyceride level, and alleviation of hyperglycemia, kidney problems, and osteoporosis. [By Danny O. Calleja (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd]

Source: DA pushes yacon production in Bicol for Japan market

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