Taking off from the initial success of an earlier project in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur of the Foundation for Rural Enterprise and Ecology Development of Mindanao (FREEDOM), Inc. the production on Nipa Palm sugar has now expanded to cover Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.
The upscaling of the project was confirmed during a project site visit of a monitoring team from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) in Butuan City.
Funded by BAR, through its National Technology Commercialization Program, the project aimed to provide a viable source of sustainable livelihood to selected coastal communities in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur and nearby municipalities.
“However, developments and interest in the product has generated more interest, which required adjustments to address the current need for expansion,” explained Mr. Antonio S. Peralta, executive director of FREEDOM, Inc.
With the assistance of FREEDOM, Inc., the Municipality of Lanuza in Surigao del Sur was able to obtain a Php 33 million grant from the Peoples Survival Fund established by the national government. From this funding, Php 7 million was allotted to support the Nipa Palm sugar project in Lanuza. Therefore, FREEDOM, Inc. with the approval from BAR expanded the project to Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro and Butuan City, Agusan del Norte to cater the need for expansion in other areas that are significantly closer to urban markets.
“FREEDOM, Inc. has established a smallscale processing facility in Butuan City in partnership with Barangay Babag because it is the source of Nipa sap in Butuan City,” said Mr. Peralta.
A Nipa Palm sap facility was established in Brgy. Babag and it was made possible through a Memorandum of Agreement between FREEDOM, Inc. and the Barangay Council of Babag. A Nipa Palm processing facility that can accommodate bigger volume of Nipa sugar production was also constructed.
A mechanical dryer with a built in thermometer was also acquired. This helped reduce the moisture content from 10 to 2 percent and has resulted to a better taste. Aside from better taste, the Nipa Palm produced is also of lighter color and has better texture compared to coco sugar. The processing facility is the first of its kind in the country that can produce Nipa Palm sugar in commercial quantities.
Mr. Peralta shared the marketing activities for Nipa Palm sugar. He mentioned that they are currently waiting for the arrival of the product certification from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a prerequisite of their prospective buyers in Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, Middle East, and United States. They are also working to comply with the product certification requirements from Biodiversity Management Bureau and Mindanao Halal Authority.
Nipa Palm sugar, a natural sweetener with low glycemic index, is produced from the sap of nipa palm (Nypa fruticans), commonly used in the Philippines as roofing materials for bahay kubo or processed as vinegar (sukang paombong) or wine (laksoy).
Currently, the Nipa Palm sugar is being marketed in selected outlets in Davao City and other urban areas in Mindanao at a smallerscale. It is available in 250g stand up pouch for Php 145. According to Mr. Peralta, “nipa palm sugar is seen as a lower cost product as compared to coco sugar [thus] this will provide a lower cost alternative to consumers and to those who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.” ### (Rena S. Hermoso/DA-BAR)