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October-December 2013 Issue (Vol. 15 No. 4)

Rita T. dela Cruz

Breadfruit is a carbohydrate- and energy-rich crop with low levels of protein and fat, and a moderate glycemic index. The Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), which is based in United States, cited breadfruit as also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium with small amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron.

This is the reason why breadfruit is being pushed and endorsed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a potential alternative food staple to rice. This initaitive is in sync with the DA’s Food Self-Sufficiency Program which aims to provide options for Filipino consumers on what to serve on their table other than rice.

Getting to Know Breadfruit

According to Dr. Roberto Coronel of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, in his book “Important and Underutilized Edible Fruits of the Philippines”, in places where it abounds, immature rimas is often cooked as a vegetable while the mature fruit is boiled and eaten like bread, with sugar and grated coconut. Those who have tasted cooked breadfruit will say that it is starchy and tastes like a cross between potato and bread.

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is just one of the 300 important species of edible fruits in the Philippines that are important but, unfortunately, are underutilized. These potential fruit crops need to be properly introduced to the public.

Breadfruit is native to New Guinea and was introduced in the Philippines during prehistoric times. It is often mistaken for breadnut (Artocarpus camansi) which is a close relative of the breadfruit.

Tapping R&D to Explore the Potentials of Breadfruit

To look further into the potentials of breadfruit, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) was tasked to study the crop through research and development (R&D). Held at BAR in 2011, a consultation workshop was conducted for the crafting of the Breadfruit Development Program/Roadmap. Outputs of the activity include benchmark database setting, R&D interventions identification, and action plans that would promote awareness and utilization of the crop.

The crafting of the roadmap resulted in the conduct of studies that would further explore the potentials of the commodity and be the basis for its promotion.

“BAR, as the focal agency to lead the Breadfruit R&D Program, is looking into the potentials of this underutilized crop. Through this program, we are exploring other applications because researches show that it can have multiple uses. This is in line with the effort of the government to address national food and nutritional security,” BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar points out.

The program was launched in 2011 under the auspices of Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala. From then on, BAR, together with the DA’s High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP), has conducted activities to support the program identified under the Rimas Roadmap.

The Roadmap for Breadfruit that was crafted in support to the implementation of the program has an allotted budget of P36 M which shall be sourced from BAR and HVCDP. The components of the roadmap include: 1) identification of planting materials in 16 regions for sustainable production; 2) enhancing farmers’ capability to propagate breadfruit; 3) development of postharvest technologies; and 4) establishment of 37 nurseries in the regions.

R&D Projects on Breadfruit

In support to this program, BAR and the HVCDP have provided funding support to five R&D projects on breadfruit.

Of the five projects, three are on-going. These are: 1) “Determination of the Incidence of Field and Postharvest Pests and Diseases of Rimas or Breadfruit and Documentation of its Crop Production and Management Practices Adopted by Farmers” implemented by the University of Southern Mindanao (USM); 2) “Rimas (Breadfruit) Biodiversity Research, Conservation, Propagation and Utilization in the Bicol Region” implemented by the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center, DA-RFU V; and 3) “Survey, Characterization, Evaluation and Maintenance of Breadfruit from Nursery to Bearing Stage in Region XI” by the Southern Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center, DA-RFU XI.

Of these projects, BIARC’s project on breadfruit ice cream is the one gaining a great deal of attention from the public. Breadfruit ice cream was one of the featured products at the BIARC booth during the 8th National Agriculture & Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition held in August 2013 at SM Megamall.

“We thought at once that breadfruit is a good flavor for ice cream because of its fine texture. It has good consistency with milk. Physically, it looks nice with its pure white flesh just like that of guyabano,” explained Luz R. Marcelino, manager of BIARC and project leader.

The breadfruit ice cream that BIARC developed comes in three variants: breadfruit with sweet potato, breadfruit with cheese and chocolate, and breadfruit with langka. In all variants, breadfruit makes the major flavor of the ice cream, taking up 80 percent of the mixture.

Although visitors who tasted the ice cream already expressed their delight and enthusiasm for the product, food technology experts from BIARC are further refining the taste and texture of the product for improved palatability. “We are still trying to improve the coagulation (curdling or thickness) of the ice cream and perhaps enhance the formulation by reducing the sweetness,” Marcelino said.

Currently, the group of Marcelino is developing another variant of spicy ice cream - breadfruit with siling labuyo - a unique blend for a dessert that is expressly designed for the Bicolano taste bud like the famous Bicol express (sinilihan).

According to Marcelino, the breadfruit ice cream has its greatest potential in Masbate. When asked why Masbate, Marcelino explained that it is an area in the Bicol Region that has a hotter climate and hence a demand for cold products making the province the ideal market. Also, Masbate has a thriving livestock industry, and products from milk are popular, thus breadfruit ice cream will easily find a niche.

Production-wise, Masbate is an excellent launching area for a breadfruit ice cream industry because it has its own regional carabao breeding center which can develop local dairy carabaos that are needed by an ice cream-making industry.

As for its future plans, Marcelino said that BIARC will link with cooperatives or the business sector to market the ice cream products that they have developed. Currently, they are looking into a partnership with a potential enterprise, the La Huerta farm, a culinary-oriented business engaged in herbs and spices concoction.

Aside from the three on-going breadfruit projects, another two were recently approved. These are: 1) “Establishment of Rapid Propagation Techniques for Seedless Breadfruit in Marinduque” implemented by the Marinduque Sate College; and 2) “Identification, Rehabilitation, Development and Establishment of Breadfruit Nursery in Zamboanga Peninsula” by the Zamboanga Peninsula Integrated Agricultural Research Center, DA-RFU IX. ###