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Producing Quality Dried Agri-fishery Products through Multi-commodity Solar Tunnel Dryer

Small Farmers and Fisherfolk with problems on overproduction during peak season have nothing to worry about. The Kababaihang Masigla ng Nareva Ecija (KMNE), processor of agricultural and fishery products, is looking for potential suppliers of commodities like tomato, tamarind, camias, guava, mushroom, soy beans, ginger; and small tilapia weighing 30 to 50 grams.

Based in flog Baliguag, Quezon, Nueva Ecija, the KMNE was organized in 2000 by its president, Vilma B. Joson, to provide livelihood for the wives of farmers to help these rural women earn additional income for their families.

Among the processed products of the KMNE are dried tomato sweets and jellies, tamarind sweets, hot and spicy and concentrated tamarind juice, sweetened karamay, ginger tea or salabat, tilapia danggit or tilanggit, rice wine, rice coffee, Soya coffee, Soya coffee with mushroom, dried and sweetened kamias, and mango. These products are already registered at the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD).
One of the technologies that KMNE uses in processing commodities is the multi-commodity solar tunnel dryer (MCSTD). It was adopted by the Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension (BPRE) from the Hohenhein University in Germany because the BPRE saw the potential of using solar power in postharvest operations.

The MCSTD is an alternative to traditional sundrying by the small-scale producers which lessens the product quality and allows dust, flies, and microorganisms to enter the commodities being dried. The MCSTD, on the other hand, is designed to produce quality dried agriculture and fishery products. By using it, commodities like mango, banana cassava, and seafoods like shrimp, squid, anchovy, danggit, and espada are dried efficiently and hygienically.

When the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Region III learned that KMNE is producing tilanggit, it recommended the use of MCSTD, which the KMNE later acquired. To facilitate the acquisition of the technology, the MCSTD from Bataan which has been inactive for some time was repaired and transferred to KMNE in Quezon, Nueva Ecija.

The MCSTD only requires electricity to run the small blower. And what’s amazing about it is that it reduced the drying time to process tamarind and tilanggit by 50 percent. Usually, it takes three to four days to dry tilanggit and six to seven days to dry tamarind. But with MCSTD, drying can be completed in one to two days for tilanggit and three to four days for tamarind. This can still be shortened depending on the heat of the sun.

The KMNE also came up with a new product from mushroom: the dried and powdered mushroom. “The MCSTD is also good for drying mushroom. I tried the powdered mushroom as an alternative to monosodium glutamate (MSG) and it’s good,” she adds.

KMNE is very pleased with how the MCSTD works that is why Joson plans to get additional unit. “We also have mechanical dryers but these are only used during rainy season. I still prefer the MCSTD because of its low operating cost, and through it we are assured that there will be no wastage,” she said.

The MCSTD project in Quezon, Nueva Ecija collabored by BPRE, BFARRegion III, and KMNE. The Technical Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), on the other hand, provided technical assistance to the members of KMNE on fruit processing.

TESDA provided KMNE with an initial capital of P50,000. The Foundation of Mason also helped them acquire the needed equipment with its P150,000 grant and P300,000 grant for the construction of the processing plant and training center though former Nueva Ecija Governor Tomas N. Joson IIL DOLE also gave KMNE P1 million as part of their Poverty Free Zone Program.

The KMNE has already established market linkage not only in the provinces, but also in Metro Manila.

Their processed products are sold at Tiendesitas (MAGAYON) in Ortigas Pasig City, Organic Haven in Cubao, Fruits and Nuts at White Plains, DeliFresh, Shangri-La Complex, Mandaluyong City, Muang Thai, Pop Pete at Robinson and Unimart, and Garcia’s Store in Nagkaisang Nayon, Novafiches, Quezon City. In fact, KMNE has also established a market at SM with P160,000 worth of stocks.

Their products are also available at provincial outlets like NE Pacific Mall and Remar’s Outlet both in Cabanatuan City, Waltermart in Gapan City, Ka Louie’s Tindahan ng Bayan in Batangas, and at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) office in San Fernando, Pampanga.

“I want to help my fellow so I encourage them to supply [us] raw materials. I want to give them the opportunity to earn,” Joson said.

She is willing to share her knowledge, thus, KMNE will serve as a “social laboratory” which will train people interested in fruit and tilanggit processing. And this will be another collaborative endeavor of KMNE, BPRE, DTI, DOST, DOLE, BFAR, and the local government of Quezon.