‘Malunggay’ takes big leap in Ilocos Norte towns
The Ilocanos’ love for green leafy vegetables is transforming the town of Sarrat in Ilocos Norte province into the biggest processor of crushed and powdered malunggay (Moringa oleifera).
With a more efficient and modern drying technology, courtesy of an interest-free loan from the Department of Science and Technology to Global Moringa Development Corp. (GMDC), the lowly malunggay, known for its medicinal and health benefits, is more than ready to cater to larger markets here and abroad.
GMDC has embarked on the project in cooperation with the Ilocos Norte Marunggay Growers Cooperative.
In July, a fabricated electric dryer, a pulverizer and a moisture meter, worth P861,500, were delivered and tested at the malunggay processing plant in Barangay (barangay) San Joaquin in Sarrat to boost the cooperative’s production of malunggay flakes and powder used as herbal tea, food supplement and fortifier.
The facility also produces malunggay seeds for oil extract.
Adriano Piza, president of GMDC, said the old dryers processed an average of 1.2 tons of malunggay leaves monthly but now, the three new dryers could handle 100 kg per batch for every three hours, or at least three tons monthly. Two of the machines were given by the Department of Agriculture and the provincial government.
“The [old] drying machine has a lower capacity of 35 kg per batch, which was why we could hardly fill the demand of the international market,” Piza said.
Clients from Europe, the United States and other Asian countries are looking for processed malunggay products for food and medicines, but they could not deliver their orders due to limited technology and supply, he said.
In 2008, Piza’s daughter, Unice Joy, initiated the project, believing that processed malunggay products have great potential in the market. Piza, however, was reluctant.
Unice Joy, 33, worked for eight years at the DA in Metro Manila, but she resigned and returned to Sarrat to plant malunggay and start the processing center.
Malunggay, which the department was then aggressively promoting in Mindanao, grows well in the Ilocos region and is considered a low-maintenance plant. It is also considered a zero waste plant because wastes generated from the processing plant are bought by other companies to be made into animal feed and organic fertilizer.
Research and demo farm
Unice Joy established a research and demonstration farm and set up a 654-square meter processing plant along the national highway in Barangay San Joaquin. She started with a farm size of more than a hectare and at least 25 residents who have believed in her idea.
She founded and managed the Ilocos Norte Marunggay Growers Cooperative, which maintains at least 22 ha of rain-fed malunggay plantations from what used to be idle lots in the hilly areas of the province. Now, the fields are creating jobs and income for farmers, including their immediate family members who are hired during harvest and for processing malunggay leaves.
Past GMDC’s birth pains, Piza and his daughter have set their eyes on expansion and getting a share of the international market. They committed to lead the way and make other malunggay growers and their families benefit from in terms of health care and employment.
The Sarrat plant, with at least 24 regular workers, plans to expand its plantation to at least 100 ha.
According to Unice Joy, GMDC aims to help about 1,500 workers and put Ilocos Norte on the world map of malunggay export within five years. “This is what I want to do—to help people who are in need of work. If it is your passion, we can always move forward,” she said.
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