Sweet reap from coco sugar


People are becoming more conscious in using food products that are not only healthy but are also natural and organic. This is the reason why the demand for coconut sugar has been on a steady rise since it was first introduced to the public’s eye.

The advantage of coco sugar is its low Glycemic Index (GI) compared to the conventional table sugar that is often sold in the market. Coco sugar is the ideal alternative sweetener for people with diabetes.

The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), through its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP), has been funding various research and development (R&D) initiatives in support to the product development and promotion of coco sugar.

As early as 2006, BAR in partnership with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) embarked in a project that will boost coco sugar as an income-generating enterprise for village-level production. Through the support of BAR, the production process of coconut sap sugar was standardized and the product characterized. The project fine-tuned the technology and developed the protocol for coconut sap sugar production.

Through the project, a women's group called the “Aroman Natural Food Producers Multipurpose Cooperative” was established in North Cotabato. The Cooperative applied their coconut sap sugar for Organic Certification to further boost the quality of the product commanding a high demand both globally and locally.

With the great potential of coco sugar and its increasing demand in the market, BAR embarked on another project to further intensify the promotion of coco sugar. In 2012, BAR partnered with the Quezon Agricultural Research and Experiment Station (QARES) and the local government unit (LGU) of Quezon to implement the project titled, Production, Promotion, and Commercialization of Coconut Sap Sugar in the Province of Quezon”.

The project aimed to increase the coconut farmers’ income, create employment, and sustain the coconut industry as the municipality’s major source of income. The project was able to establish technology demonstrations sites for coconut production, and later on expanded these sites outside the municipality.

Farmers were also capacitated through the conduct of trainings on production, technology transfer, and value-addition of coconut sap sugar production.

Currently, the project team is able to increase its production volume and improved the quality of product development.

The project has resulted to a significant increase in the income of the farmers, of which one farmer-cooperator earned an average gross yearly income of PhP 877,500 from coco sap sugar production alone. (Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca and Rita T. dela Cruz, DA-BAR)



Comeback of the jute sack

by Rena S. Hermoso


In the context of sustainable agriculture, society should be able to meet both food and textile needs without compromising the future generations to do the same. While sustainable farming practices is relevant, it is also important to pay attention to the materials that we use to package agricultural products.

With the introduction of synthetic polypropylene as packaging material, sacks made from natural fibers including jute and kenaf are slowly being neglected by farmers. The preference for cheaper alternative became the new norm.

As the world starts to realize the negative effects of using synthetic materials to the environment, using eco-friendly materials becomes an efficient and sustainable alternative. Sacks made from jute, kenaf, and other natural fibers are slowly making a comeback.

Aside from being biodegradable and reusable, jute sacks can preserve the quality and germination capability of grain commodities intact as air can pass through the bags easily. It can protect grains from heat and sunlight as well. Unlike its synthetic counterpart, jute sack is easier to handle because it does not slip off when stacked. Another advantage is that its production does not require the use of harmful chemical.

“These natural fibers (i.e. jute, abaca, coir kenaf and sisal) are of vital importance to the livelihood and food security of farmers in some of the poorest regions of the world. They provide employment for low-income populations in rural areas while contributing to food security in times of drought,” said Kaison Chang, senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It is a cash crop for millions of poor and marginal farm families of South Asian countries according to reports.


Jute production in the Philippines

Known as the “golden fiber,” jute fiber is extracted from the bark of two closely related annual herbaceous species, Corchorus capsularis L. and Corchorus olitorius L. belonging to the Tiliceae family. It thrives in tropical lowland areas with humidity of 60-90 percent. Jute is a rainfed crop with little need for fertilizers or pesticides.Cultivating jute also enriches the fertility of soil for the next crop.

In the Philippines, the last recorded jute production was in 2008 according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. In their database, North Cotabato and Cagayan were the only provinces that have reported jute production. According to the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, the top producers of saluyot in 2006 were Ilocos region, particularly Pangasinan; and Western Visayas.

Under Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol’s directives, the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) and the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) were tasked to study the jute industry particularly jute as a source of natural fiber for packaging material. The instruction was to explore the commodity and the mechanisms that will facilitate import substitution of jute sack.

Likewise, the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC) of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 5, embarked on a study that aims to determine the current status of jute production in the Bicol region.


PhilFIDA’s research initiative on jute as materials for packaging

According to Dr. Remedios V. Abgona, chief of the Fiber Utilization and Technology Division of PhilFIDA and project leader, “in the Philippines, the coffee and cacao growers are one of the major users of sacks for packaging coffee and cacao beans. With the growing demand for these commodities, requirement for packaging materials will also follow.” However, the only jute sack mill, Mackie Industries, in the Philippines closed down many years ago.

According to Joel Lumagbas, one of the board members of Philippine Coffee Board Inc., there is a law by the International Coffee Organization specifies that the packaging material to be used for exportation of coffee is jute sack with 60 kilogram capacity. The project found that local coffee and cacao growers import jute sacks from other countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India.

Part of PhilFIDA’s study is to determine the availability and consumption of jute, jute sack, and other products (imported and local) in the Philippines. The research team found that in Nueva Ecija, jute is primarily cultivated for food consumption. Moreover, interviewed coffee growers and associations that use jute sack as packaging material for their commodity expressed their concerns. Jute sacks tend to grow molds faster. The fabric easily loosens even if they use brand new sacks. It also gets heavier when wet. Most of the interviewed participants shared that the lack of affordable and quality jute sack in their area is their main problem with jute sack as packaging material for their commodities.

According to Dr. Abgona, “one of the advantages of using jute sack is it prevents moisture accumulation in dried beans and the air in the sack can circulate freely. Molds tend to grow faster only in wet jute.” She also shared that, “woven jute fabrics are more durable compared to synthetic materials. [However,] improper handling can lead to the early deterioration of the quality of jute sack.” She also explained that, “jute sack is porous, so it will easily absorb and retain water; [thereby making it heavier]. But, this situation happens only if the sacks are not properly stored,” shared Dr. Abgona.

Hopefully, through the study, PhilFIDA aims “to provide the government as well as prospective investors the needed information on jute fiber production for policy formulation, decision making and needed interventions for jute production and its consideration as packaging material,” ended Dr. Abgona. ###




For more information:

Dr. Remedios V. Abgona
Chief, Fiber Utilization and Technology Division
Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./ftud­This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
phone: 273 2474 local 2681



From waste to wealth: Developing new products from onion leaves

by Rita T. dela Cruz


Managing agricultural waste continues to be one of the key challenges in the agriculture sector. It continues to accumulate as more crops are being grown to produce food for the growing population.

Agricultural waste could be an untapped biomass resource that can ease the country’s environmental burden or source of profit if converted into new and valuable products.

This was the challenge posted by Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to the onion industry, specifically the research and development (R&D) sector.

“What we want to do is to make our onion farmers more competitive so that they can produce more even at current operating costs so that they can earn more,” Secretary Piñol said. To do this, the agriculture chief mentioned strategies such as adopting new farming technologies and techniques to lower production costs and increase farm yields of the local onion farmers.

Upon posting this challenge, DA has embarked on various initiatives to protect the country’s onion industry. Specifically for the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the national R&D arm of DA, it was tasked to spearhead research initiatives on how to make the most out of onion leaves that are usually considered waste materials after the harvest season. "[They will] study if it could be dehydrated and used in arroz caldo, mami and as spice in Oriental dishes,” Secretary Piñol instructed.


Onion leaves as waste

Onion (Allium cepa) is an important crop which is highly-valued for its flavor, nutrients, and medicinal properties. No dish will ever taste the same without that distinct flavor and aroma of onion.

In 2016, the Philippines ranked 70th among the 150 countries in the world production of producing 122,595 tons of onions. China, India and Egypt are the top three producing countries (FAO Statistical Database, 2016).

In the Philippines, Nueva Ecija continues to be the top producer of onion accounting to at least more than half of the country’s production. The onion varieties commonly planted are red onion, yellow or white onion, and shallot. The Philippines’ onion exports, mainly consisting of the red shallot type, are mostly coming from Nueva Ecija.

Onions are harvested manually by pulling the matured bulbs. After harvesting the bulbs, the onion roots and leaves become waste. Due to lack of proper disposal of organic waste, the accumulation of large quantity of organic wastes has become a challenge.

The onion leaves are left behind in the field and are allowed to decay producing foul odor and a repository for pests and insects causing possible contamination and environmental hazard in the area.

Seeing the value from these agricultural wastes, particularly the onion leaves, Secretary Piñol instructed BAR to look into the possibilities of finding new uses or converting new products from these waste onion leaves. Specifically, he instructed that the onion leaves, upon dehydration, be used as spice in Oriental dishes, including arroz caldo and mami. By doing so, farmers will be able to earn more and address the problem of managing farm wastes.


Turning onion leaves into new products

In response to the directives of Secretary Piñol to explore research interventions that can optimize the uses of onion, BAR met with project implementers from various R&D implementing agencies, including the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), during the last quarter of 2017. The meeting was set to come up with an integrated program that will cover various researchable areas and the development of technologies on onion.

Implemented in 2017, UPLB’s project titled, “Increasing Farmers’ Income through the Utilization of Waste Onion Leaves for Various Applications” aimed to develop package of technologies (POTs) for the utilization of onion leaves into different products, and to promote the commercialization of POTs to provide additional income to farmers.

Dr. Myra G. Borines, project leader from UPLB, mentioned that one of the potential impacts of this research initiative is to produce high-value products from waste onion leaves, thereby increasing the profit of onion farmers. She added that with this study, there will be a reduction of postharvest losses, and increase competitiveness of onion industry.

According to Dr. Borines, similar to spring onion, onion leaves may have the same components that can be processed for food applications. With proper research and processing technique, onion leaves can be used as spice in local dishes.

One of the challenges that the group of Dr. Borines must addressed was the pesticide residues or traces present in the onion leaves. Onion’s vulnerability to a wide range of pests has resulted to the use of chemical pesticide by onion growers.

Prior to the processing of onion leaves for food application, the samples were analyzed for residual pesticides and various methods to remove the residues were explored. Among the methods used to remove pesticide residues include: washing with tap water, soaking in 1% vinegar solution, boiling, washing with 0.02% liquid detergent solution, and soaking in baking soda and lemon juice. These methods were based on the study of Dr. Susan May F. Calumpang of the National Crop Protection Center of the College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS), University of the Philippines Los Baños on the removal of pesticide residues in vegetables.

Storability studies were also conducted to determine as to what extent the leaves can be stored. “Different factors affecting the shelf-life of onion leaves will also be considered. Characterization and monitoring of the bioactive components of onion leaves has to be done to investigate the different potential products from its utilization,” explained Dr. Borines.

In the study, various dehydration (drying) techniques were explored to enhance the shelf-life of onion leaves. Dehydration is the process of removing water or moisture from a food product. Dr. Borines explored four dehydration techniques for this study. These include: 1) sun drying (cheapest and simplest method), 2) conventional drying (air is heated with steam, gas or hot water and then circulated over the wet product), 3) freeze drying (involves the sublimation process, where solid turns into gas without becoming a liquid), and 4) vacuum drying (involves indirect heating generally used for heat-sensitive materials).

Initial results of the study showed that conventional drying and vacuum drying were the preferred methods in preserving total phenolic content (TPC) and total flavonoid content (TFC) of onion leaves. TPC and TFC are the phytochemicals present in onion leaves. In terms of color and appearance, onion leaves were best preserved using freeze drying. Likewise, desired significant reduction of moisture in onion leaves was achieved using this drying technique.

As for the products developed from onion leaves, the group of Dr. Borines was able to produce at least five POTs. These were: 1) dried onion leaves (can be further processed as tea); 2) powdered onion leaves (can be further processed as seasoning/salt, kropek, noodles, pandesal); 3) pickled onion leaves; 4) onion leaves extract (can be further processed as puree and juice); and 5) vacuum-fried onion leaves (can be further processed as garnish).

With the new products and technologies developed from waste onion leaves, Dr. Borines cited that not only the problem on postharvest losses is being addressed but it may help improve the productivity and income of onion farmers thereby providing significant impact to the onion industry. ###




For more information:

Myra G. Borines, Ph.D

Project Leader/ Associate Professor 5

Department of Chemical Engineering, CEAT

University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)

College, Laguna, 4031

phone: (049) 536-2315

email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Seagrass craft making flourishes in Camarines Sur

by Rena S. Hermoso


From the plain-looking handwoven slippers to embroidered bags and embellished baskets, the seagrass craft making in San Fernando, Camarines Sur has upscaled into a full-blown home-basedbusiness industry enterprise providing additional income to rice farmers in the flood-prone areas.

According to the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 5-Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC), the majority of the flood-prone rice producing areas were left fallowed thus additional costs on herbicides and labor are needed to remove various weeds and sedges that emerge after the fallow period. “In the project site, while many people use various weed species as forage for animals, ingenious farmers surprisingly explored promising potential uses of seagrass," shared BIARC Manager Luz R. Marcelino. This shed light on the seagrass craft making, a promising income-generating opportunity for the farmers.


The project that started it all

Seagrass (Rynchospora corymbosa), locally-known as ragiwdiw and bankuan, is a perennial sedge that grows abundantly in flood-prone areas in Bicol. Dried stalks from seagrass are hand twined together to create the raw material for handicraft making—salapid. The salapid can be made into various products such as bags, slippers, hampers, and decorative items. According to Marcelino, the best characteristic of seagrass is its resistance to molds when stored for a longer period of time.

Thus, to further develop the seagrass enterprise, BIARC implemented the project, “Enterprise Development in Flood Prone Areas in Camarines Sur.” Funded by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), the project aimed to provide opportunities for rural employment, increase family income and empower communities through the development of agri-business enterprise. The goals of the project were to: 1) develop rice-based production systems within the framework of integrated farming systems approach; 2) identify researchable areas for optimized seagrass-based enterprise development; and, 3) develop a village-level handicraft production enterprise.

Ang masasabi ko lang po sa Bikolano farmers, they are very, very resourceful. They tied up with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) para magkaroon ng enhancement doon sa product nila," according to Marcelino, project proponent. In coordination with DTI-Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines, farmer cooperators’ association were provided with skill and product development training and sponsored their participation in national trade fairs.

To support the associations’ full operation to meet the increasing demand of seagrass in the local handicraft industry, BAR extended institutional support through the provision of common service facilities and production equipment.

Marcelino also proudly shared, “[n]agpapasalamat din po ako sa mga San Fernando farmers because they were really innovative. They were really bent on improving their lives in terms of the resources of what [are] the resources na nandoon sa kanila.”


From simple products to elite fashion items

After the project has ended, BIARC continued their efforts in upscaling and expanding the seagrass craft industry in Camarines Sur. They tapped the creativity and entrepreneurial skills of Bernadette B. De Los Santos, owner of Bidibidi Enterprise, a social enterprise that combines fashion, arts and upcycling while providing livelihood to local women and out-of-school youth in Baao, Camarines Sur.

De Los Santos is part of the Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) project, a Philippine-Canadian brainchild that aimed to provide support for women to start businesses and obtain a better-paying job. This project is handled by DTI together with the Department of Science and Technology, DA, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine Commission on Women, small and medium enterprises, and private sector representatives.

She shared, “I started hand embroidery on fabrics. But they were the ones who told me, ‘why don’t you try seagrass as baskets and bags, and use your art sa pag-e-embellish?" With BIARC (as it was scouting for area for expansion) suggestion, she started making bags and baskets using seagrass as a raw material and embellished them using other natural fibers such as raffia and abaca in 2017. The following year, DTI invited her to showcase her products at the Manila FAME, a biannual lifestyle and design trade show that aims to promote the Philippines as a reliable sourcing destination for high-quality home, fashion, holiday, architectural and interior pieces. Then, she participated in ArteFino Fair, the biggest artisan fair in the country. She proudly shared, “ako ang favorite, ang sales ko is more than half a million," during the four-day event.

With the growing interest in sustainable fashion items, bags made from natural fibers such as seagrass would surely be a hit. In fact, she shared, “patok na patok iyan ngayon kasi may consciousness na ang mga tao, gusto nila good for the environment—fashionable ka na, good for the environment pa ang sinusuot mo."

After her participation at the ArteFino Fair, she has received invitations for interviews from various television networks to which she reacted, “I think it’s kinda phenomenal na from a mere grass, now it’s a high-end product; although it’s not original kasi marami namang gumawa ng baskets."

An elite shopping center and Filipino culture shop have also shown interest in her products. She shared, “[a]ng sabi nga nila sa akin, akmang-akma itong paggawa ko kasi pukaw na ang Pilipino ngayon. They are starting to take pride in what they have."

Her products have also garnered attention from personalities across the globe. Fashion icons such as actress Heart Evangelista, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and international fashion designer Christian Louboutin have taken an interest with her world-class design and handicraft.

To keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the fashion industry, De Los Santos consulted BIARC on other natural fibers that can be used as raw materials for her products. She explained, “sa aking ginagawa ang naitulong talaga [ng research] is iyong kapag naghahanap ako ng ibang fiber. Sila naman ang kinokontak ko. Kasi gusto kong mag-infuse [ng ibang fiber]. We are into saluyot para i-incorporate namin. Kasi sa fashion mabilis silang magsawa, so kailangan mayroon kang bagong idea."


The women behind this success

Before venturing into the handicraft industry, De Los Santos was a farmer. She said, “nagsimula ako as a farmer dito sa Baao, but of course, I have always been an artist " In fact, she was awarded as the Most Outstanding Rural Woman in 2008.

Naisip ko lang to go to crafts because I observed na ang mga asawa ng farmers from the time they plant until the time they harvest walang ginagawa. So iyon ang naging trabaho ko rito sa amin, tinuruan ko [silang] magburda, ng kung anu-anong mga ginawa," she shared.

She has been teaching women the necessary skills to make the bags such as basket weaving, embroidery, and crocheting. National agencies such as DA, DTI, and Department of Social Welfare and Development has tapped her to train more communities outside Baao. She explained, “nagturo kami via DA, nagturo kami sa mga nasalanta ng Mayon Volcano eruption. So may mga weavers kami sa Albay, lahat ng kailangan kong skill tinuturo namin. Para after ng training sa kanila na kami kukuha, mayroon kaagad silang income."

“[My] goal is to empower these women by teaching them the skills and bring about the best in them, while allowing them to be mothers, wives, sisters, nurturing their families, their communities," De Los Santos shared in her social media account.

At the bottom of this success, what matters most for De Los Santos is the number of lives she has touched. “This is a social enterprise. Ang gusto ko mas maraming makakagamit; kasi pag marami, marami rin ang magagawa nila. Ang profit margin is very minimal but it’s enough to keep the business going, so that’s fine,” ended De Los Santos. ###




For more information, please contact:
Luz R. Marcelino
Manager/Project Leader
Pili, Camarines Sur
Phone: (054) 477 0475
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Developing year-round quality feeds for livestock

by Patrick Raymund A. Lesaca


The Philippines imports most of its milk requirements from leading dairy producing countries. Stated in the Philippine Dairy Update (Jan-Jun 2018) by the National Dairy Authority, the dairy supply situation is characterized by increasing local milk production, despite the availability of huge land areas suitable for livestock raising for the first semester of 2018, milk and dairy products had increased by six percent.

The dairy cattle industry is one of the primary sources of income among cattle raisers, especially the farmers from the province of Isabela in Cagayan Valley, where there is a wide range of rice and corn fields, and therefore could be an abundant source of feed resources (i.e. green corn as forage/silage, rice straw, corn stover)


However, despite the vastnesses of areas, many dairy farmers are still faced with scarcity problem of quality feed resources for dairy animals especially during dry season. The supply of forage is very low during the dry spell. The wet season is the peak season wherein quality feeds are high in supply, therefore contributing to the good milk production of cows.


To address feed quality and scarcity, and improve the current state of the dairy sector, it is recommended to come up with quality feed and roughages that will be made available all-year-round. Forages and roughages are the backbone of the industry, because ruminants like cow depend on them for milk and meat production.


Farmers need to be proficient in managing the development of forages and having an alternative supply of quality forage during lean months will help reduce the cost of feed production and increase milk production and profit. A possible approach that can be made is through forage production and silage, enriched with locally-available fodder, could provide a year-round consistent feed supply with low-cost quality nutrients for livestock.  


To operationalize the supply of quality forages, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) is currently working with the Isabela State University (ISU) on a BAR-funded project, “Adoption and Commercialization of Green Corn, Green Corn-based Silage, Haylage and UMMB Production for Dairy Cattle in Cagayan Valley”. Leading the projects are Dr. Nilo E. Padilla and Dr. Diosdado C. Cañete of ISU in collaboration with Department of Agriculture Region-Regional Field Office 2.


The primary of objective of the project is to improve dairy production and ultimately increase the income of dairy farmers through the utilization of green corn silage, haylage and Urea Molasses Mineral Block (UMMB) supplementation using locally available feed resources.


According to the project proponents, green corn silage production, nutrient-enriched rice straw (as haylage) and the use of UMMB have been proven to improve nutrition among dairy animals, and thus improving milk and meat production.


Corn silage is a high energy feed resource for ruminants being part forage and part grain. In terms of nutrient content, corn silage is lower in crude protein and higher in digestible energy than other forages. Corn is relatively easy to ensile. As a minimum feed requirement, it is essential to provide a green fodder supplement to enhance rumen function for bovine animals and to increase milk production. Forage conserved this way is known as ‘ensiled forage’ or ‘silage’ and will keep for up to three years without deteriorating. Silage is very palatable to livestock and can be fed at any time.  It is also considered the most convenient way to conserve forage crops.  

According to the report of ISU, the project has been piloted in Malaya Development Cooperative (MDC) and Quezon Dairy Farmers Cooperative. The farmers tapped in the piloted areas will plant corn and will be at 70-85 days old corn. Corn will be chopped and packed in a 30-40 kgs capacity sacks with polyethylene bag, air removed from the bags using vacuum pump, sealed, and stored in a place safe of rats. The silage is ready for feeding after 3 weeks in storage.

On-site and experiential learnings on: 1) production of silage, haylage, and UMMB, 2) showcasing or demonstration feeding of silage and haylage, use of UMMB as feed supplement, 3) cooperative/ association strengthening, among others have already been conducted.

As a result of the awareness campaign and capability building component of this BAR-funded project, the MDC has fully adopted silage as feed to their dairy animals. Milk production has gradually increased from 3 liters/ head/day to 10-11 liters/ head/ day. The cooperative is now growing their own corn for silage production, while the other coop is now ready to produce their own silage.

With the project on board, BAR and ISU project is expected to address the year-round availability of nutrient-rich feedstuff for dairy cattle/carabao; increased lactation period, milk production per head and total milk production (community, municipality, province, region); higher household income; improved nutrition of farm families, and less dependence on imported milk and milk products. ###




For more information:

Dr. Nilo E. Padilla and Dr. Diosdado C. Cañete

Professor VI and Associate Professor IV

Isabela State University, Echague, Isabela

Telephone Number(s): 09163225967 and 09088620681

Fax Number: (078) 305-0120 2.7.

Email Address:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  



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