One crop that we can grow in the Philippines but which we are not growing in commercial scale is the jackfruit. No wonder, our supermarkets as well as fast food chains in the Philippines are sourcing their requirements from Vietnam.
We visited Vietnam last week and we found out the reason why our local businessmen are buying their supplies of frozen jackfruit pulp from that country. The reason is that they can buy all that they need from just one source. In the Philippines, they simply cannot buy jackfruit pulp in bulk from one supplier. So it is more convenient for them to import.
Somewhere in the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, we visited the biggest processor of jackfruit. This is MIT International which claims to have about 70 percent of the jackfruit supply in Vietnam. There we saw easily more than 30 people extracting the pulp from the fruit of the jackfruit. Most of the extracted pulp is frozen and exported to different countries, including the Philippines. Three classes – from A to C – are exported. These are used in “halo-halo”, turon and other preparations in the Philippines. Average price in Vietnam is US$1,700 per ton.
Nick Trinh, managing director of MIT International, said they process about 20 container loads of jackfruit pulp each week. Of course that’s a lot of jackfruit. The good thing is that there is enough fruits delivered by farmers to the facility.
The secret, according to Trinh, is that they buy everything that the farmers deliver. They don’t have any rejects. That’s probably because the farmers also do their own quality control. They don’t deliver fruits unfit for processing.
The secret is to make sure that the farmers are making money. That way they will keep on producing whatever is needed in the market. In the case of the jackfruit planters, they plant only one variety, a latexless strain originally from Thailand. That is the reason why the fruits that they deliver to the factory are uniform and so is the quality of the pulp.
Good rapport with the farmers is important to the management of MIT International. Nick Trinh related that a few years ago, a group of unscrupulous Chinese tried to sabotage their operations. The Chinese group bought the trees of 80 per cent of their suppliers for about a thousand dollars per tree. Eventually the trees were killed.
The group of Trinh just let the incident pass away. They operated only about 20 percent of their usual volume. The farmers who sold their trees eventually went back to them after learning their lesson. They have now become more loyal to MIT International.
NEW TECHNOLOGY – The coming of the new technology called IQF or Instant Quick Freeze could add further value to jackfruit and other agricultural commodities. The IQF technology can freeze fruits or vegetables in a matter of three to four minutes compared to the more than one hour needed in blast freezing.
The result of IQF is that the commodity remains fresh and crunchy after thawing. The same technology is reported to be now being used in the Philippines which is quick-freezing sliced bananas for export to Europe. The IQF technology can now transform the “reject” bananas for export in the Philippines (either too big or too small, or with some other defects) into exportable product.
If the IQF technology could be applied to jackfruit in Vietnam, the product could fetch a much higher price in the market because of its freshness. One company in An Giang province with IQF facility that we visited can quick-freeze 12.5 tons of commodity per hour but are not yet processing jackfruit.