Source: Marvvn N. Benaning | mb.com.ph
MANILA, Philippines – A study conducted by a team of biotechnologists Wednesday urged the Aquino government to support the pili industry based in Bicol and improve the tree as a source of resin but also of oil and other micronutrients.
The 56-page study said that pili growers have been at the mercy of middlemen who purchase the nuts before they are ready for harvest and hold on to the product from nine to 12 months to maximize their profits.
One industry player said the farmers are compelled to sell their produce immediately to gain liquidity while the traders dry the nuts, store them and sell them when the market supply is low.
This is the reason, the study showed, that middlemen have a high 75 percent return on investment (ROI) while processors net between 20 percent and 30 percent.
In this equation, the farmers get the low end of the bargain even as some of them sell the pili trees to gain higher income. Pili trees are a source of premium wood for making furniture.
“A real incentive the government could offer is a low-interest financial subsidy program designed to help the average farmer weather lean months without compelling them to commit an entire harvest in exchange for immediate access to cash. This subsidy program (a credit system) would allow farmers to directly control production and distribution as well as maximize their financial benefit by giving them direct access to local and international buyers. This subsidy system would also enhance a competitive environment that is conducive to economic growth as it will relatively increase the velocity of cash at every layer of the economic value chain,” the study suggested.
The team that undertook the study was surprised to find out the low buying price of pili (scientific name, Canarium ovatum, while thee other variety is C. luzonicum) even as the seasonal tree had been known as the source of Manila elemi, a resin used for sealing traditional boats, and demand for its essential oil in Europe, the United States and Japan had been rising since the 1950s.
“Despite the recorded growth in the production of Pili from 1990 through 2008 the industry, as a whole remains risk-averse, conflict-ridden and growth-stagnant,” it added.
Moreover, the study found out that pili farmers are generally poor and could not expand their area of cultivation since “vast tracts of land most suitable for the production of pili are constantly being converted to serve the recreational, residential, commercial, or even agricultural needs of the region,” it added.
“Pili possesses the characteristics to become among our country’s most valuable export commodity. Categorically, pili nuts can compete with cashew, almond and macadamia in terms of texture, taste, and extracted micronutrient yield. The Pili nut can be further processed into a variety of already known confectionaries, baked products and other delicacies…The nut has a high percentage of oil content ranging from 65 to 73 percent. Studies have shown that this oil is equal, if not superior, to olive oil in terms of taste, fatty acid composition and nutrient content. In fact, oil from Pili nut has 11.5 to 14 percent protein, comparable to the protein content of soybean,” the study said.