This is the first in Philippine history of agriculture and business: An OFW in Australia discovered this wild raspberry- sweet, sour and bitter – to have phytochemicals that may prevent and cure Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
This Philippine wild raspberry “Sapinit” processed into juice, jam, and wine has broken through in the market with its unique taste and richness in leucoanthocyanin, anti-Alzheimer’s, and anti-cancer phytochemical content.
The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) has seen an initial success in its P1.55 million-funded project that has sent the market craving for Sapinit food products.
“They come looking back again and again for our juice in our promo booth because of its distinct taste. Children especially like them,” said Anniewenda Reyes, municipal agriculturist of Dolores, Quezon, BAR’s partner local government unit (LGU).
The processing facility in Tiaong only has a capacity now of processing 100 kilos of raw fruit per day. But its impact is added livelihood and income to 18 women members of the Bangkong Kahoy RIC and some 20 members of the Bangkong Kahoy 4H club, along with the economic benefits to their families.
Products like Sapinit that are unique to the Philippines, particularly to the wilds of Mt. Banahaw in Quezon and Laguna, really need a big boost in research and marketing support from the government, according to Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, BAR director.
“You can’t find Sapinit anywhere as much as you find them thriving in our wilds even without a delicate need for nurture and care. They are protectors of our environment,” said Eleazar.
Other funders of the project are the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council and Japan’s KR2 Program.
Sapinit has a bright potential as a specialty product as its price in the market is high. Farmers can sell it fresh in the San Pablo City wet market at P300 per kilo. However, shelf life of fresh fruits is only three-four days.
That is where processing comes in. Sapinit juice is sold at P35 per 350 milliliters (ml), P85 for 250 ml jam, and P300 for 350 ml wine.
The preparation into a delicious juice, jam, and even wine is part of BAR’s project with the Quezon Agricultural Experimental Station (QAES). Sapinit is also processed into vinaigrette for salad dressing by a proprietor in one Quezon resort. Tea is another potential product from the leaves.
“Sapinit has a very important role in uplifting the livelihood of communities because without it, they just depend on cash crops,” said Dennis Bihis, QAES researcher.
One kilo of raw Sapinit may be turned into four bottles of jam or four bottles of juice. The same one kilo may also be processed into five 350 ml wine.
The main market for the processed Sapinit is the beach tourists of Quezon and the pilgrimage and mountain climbing guests of Mt. Banahaw. Dolores Development Cooperative and the Bangkong Kahoy RIC keep stores where Sapinit products are sold.
The BAR program also funded a phytochemical analysis of Sapinit by the Industrial Technology Development Institute and the University of the Philippines Los Banos-Biotech.
This has shown the presence of anti-cancer phytochemicals including leucoanthocyanins, anthraquinones, saponins, deoxysugars, free fatty acids, hydrolysable tannins (inhibitors of HIV duplication), unsaturated steroids, and benzopyrone nucleus.
An important function of anthraquinones is it inhibits formation of Tau aggregates and dissolve paired helical filaments thought to be critical to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
With anthraquinones, Sapinit also gets an industrial use potential. Anthraquinones is a precursor to synthetic dyes, an additive in paper pulp making, and is a material for hydrogen peroxide.
Leucoanthocyanin is a flavonoid found in many plants including berries which are potential modifiers of carcinogens. Moreover, some saponins have been shown to very significantly augment the cytotoxicity of immunotoxins and other targeted toxins directed against human cancer cells.
The Department of Science and Technology also carried out microbial analysis, preparation of nutrition facts, and packaging as funded by the BAR-QAES project.
Many investors, including candy manufacturers that seek raw materials for flavoring, have expressed interest in putting money into Sapinit. But QAES is carefully working first on the needed research before signing more memoranda of agreement.
“There were many who are interested in participating. But before receiving them, we want to ensure that the pioneering community who ventured into Sapinit growing be benefitted first,” said Bihis.
Sapinit is a shrub that has prickly stem, thereby identifying it with the rose family and making it a raspberry rather than a strawberry. It reaches to a height of six feet and grows in a higher elevation of 1,000 to 2,000 feet above sea level. Its fruit has bright red-orange color that accounts for its phytochemical richness. It has sweet-sour-bitter taste that makes for its uniqueness.
In the wilds, its yield is just 800 kilos per hectare. With the technology introduced by QAES, yield may increase to 1,000 kilos to 6,000 per hectare, depending on the level of organic fertilizer applied.
Field studies show that yield increased to as much as 6,103 kilos at a fertilizer treatment of 1,000 kilos. The field that was not fertilized at all gave only 856 kilos per hectare.
Another technology that was introduced is maintaining a planting distance of 1.5 meters in between rows and 0.5 meters in between hills.
Farmers here are already somehow familiar with the use of organic fertilizers since it is seven kilometers away from the poblacion, the town proper, where organic fertilization is practiced.
While prospects for expansion arising from market demand is high, the limitation on production of Sapinit is still a problem.
However, the package of technology (POT) has so far already stretched the harvesting and processing period from only three months (November to January) to six months– from October to March of the following year.
Interestingly, Sapinit was not infested by any pest or disease during the conduct of the QAES evaluation. Sapinit is propagated both through suckers and cuttings.
The potential expansion area in the Mt. Banahaw covers 30 hectares. At present, Sapinit is only planted with technology intervention in two hectares—one in Dolores, Quezon, and one in Lucban, Quezon.
But expansion may be in Sariaya, Tayabas and Lucban in Quezon and Majayjay and Luisiana in Laguna. The fruit’s planting presently supplements farmers’ growing of pinakbet (ampalaya, squash, string beans) and chopsuey (sayote, carrots, Baguio beans) vegetables.
The expansion should further enhance livelihood opportunities for the natives.
“Because of their growing of Sapinit, the community has become united because they begin to realize they can do something for the community,” said Rolando Cuasay, QAES officer-in-charge.
Upon the initial discovery of Sapinit by a Filipino OFW in Australia, Dionisio Pullan, together with the natives of Mt. Banahaw, QAES established in March 2009 a 1,000 square meter technology demonstration site. The first harvest was made in December 2009.
Expansion of Sapinit may even extend beyond Quezon as this wild raspberry is widely distributed in open secondary forests from Luzon to Mindanao at low to medium altitude. This is for as long as there is abundant soil moisture.
Sapinit is considered a plant useful for environmental sustainability as it does not need continuous cultivation, and it can live for many years. This way, it retains soil fertility.
Source: Bureau of Agricultural Research
Picture: From AgriPinoy