Knowledge for Development

Innovations in tropical food processing

Tropical fruits offer a significant opportunity for agricultural and economic growth for many ACP countries. However, while production, processing and marketing of some better known fruits such as citrus, mangoes, avocadoes and bananas, has benefitted from significant investments including in research and development, primarily to service export markets; this has not been the same for many other tropical fruits. This dossier comprises two lead articles by ACP and EU experts and provides links to relevant documentary resources on tropical fruit processing. It seeks to highlight the challenges and opportunities in adding value to tropical fruits and provides policy guidelines to support industry development.

In the first lead article, Ludovic Temple of CIRAD, France, explains how the development of the horticultural sector and the determinants of innovation are linked. For major tropical fruits that are traded internationally; foreign investment, research and development and technological advances e.g. refrigerated storage as well as improvements in logistics have been critical. International standards have also driven innovation, and emerging standards such as organic and fair trade are creating new market opportunities. While the benefits have accrued to large-scale well-organized producers and other actors along the value chain, small family-scale fruit production and processing enterprises have not been able to meet the requirements of large-scale retailers. They are also reluctant to take the risks of investing in new technology, such as introducing novel disease-resistant varieties. There is still a need to accelerate the adoption of new technologies and improve coordination to their benefit.

 In the second lead article, Machel A. Emanuel and Noureddine Benkeblia, University of the West Indies, Jamaica, demonstrate the challenges faced in developing the Jamaican ackee (Blighia sapida K.D. Koenig) industry. Ackee is well accepted by Jamaicans but not well known in many other countries; it has the potential to contribute to the growth of the Jamaican economy if the industry can increase its penetration of international export markets. However, the ackee contains a toxic compound, hypoglycin A, which poses a challenge in meeting food safety requirements. There are also other challenges hindering industry development including availability of suitable processing variety in adequate quantities. Research and technology development have supported industry development but challenges remain. In 1972, the US Food and Drug Administration effectively banned the imports of ackee from Jamaica. An upper limit of 100 mg/kg of hypoglycin A was set. In 1990 an accurate detection procedure was developed, allowing importation of tested produce into the USA to begin again. However, in 2005, the exportation of ackee to the US market was again suspended for almost one year for technical reasons. Presently, only certified agro-processors with food safety controls in place can export canned ackee that will not be automatically detained. Further growth of the industry needs a concerted effort of scientists, engineers, policymakers, investors and entrepreneurs including farmers to support this export-oriented industry which remains heavily dependent on maintaining the confidence of the overseas consumers. Tropical fruit industry expansion in ACP countries does not rely only on coordinating and improving production and logistics efficiencies but requires a systems approach. This folder was compiled and edited by CABI and CTA, June, 2012.

Innovation is a central part of agriculture’s adaptation to development issues linked to poverty reduction, the protection of environmental resources and competitiveness. In the horticulture industries (bananas, mangoes, citrus fruits, green beans, flowers, etc.) of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, logistics innovations (maritime shipping, reefer ships, cold chain) related to the globalization of companies partly explain the growth of international trade. 16/08/2012
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International Tropical Fruits Network (TFNet) is an independent and self-financing global network set up under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It is both intergovernmental and interinstitutional in nature. Its mandate and role is to promote sustainable development of the tropical fruit industry globally in relation to production, post-harvest handling, processing, marketing, consumption and international trade. 16/08/2012
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The ackee fruit (Blighia sapida K.D. Koenig) is the emblem of Jamaican national identity. It is speculated that the ackee tree is native to the forest of the Guinea Coast of tropical West Africa, where it is admired as an ornamental shading plant and used in the construction of furniture (Seaforth, 1963). During the era of the Atlantic Slave trade in the 1700s, when millions of Africans were transported to the Caribbean, they brought with them ackee seeds, which were used for fishing. The shiny black seed contains saponin, a physiologically active polyphenolic compound that forms a soapy lather with water, and this active ingredient is poisonous to fish (Davidson, 1971).The edible portion of the fruit, the aril, is eaten in Nigeria, where it is known as ishin. Indigenous knowledge about the ackee fruit was carried to the Caribbean region, specifically Jamaica, where it is the main ingredient in the national dish known as “ackee and cod fish” (Royes and Baccus, 1988). This tropical fruit is processed and exported as a canned product but the industry faces many challenges. The scientific and engineering community has responded to save the industry but quality and safety issues continue to hinder expansion on the international market.The ackee fruit is a capsule that is green when young, becoming yellow to red, reaching 7.7-10 cm long at full maturity (Mitchell et al., 2008). The fruit develops into a red-coloured fleshy three-celled capsule, made up of three valves with a septa in the middle. The seeds are black; one in each cell with a fleshly aril around its base, and the aril is attached to the placenta by a red membrane. The aril is the edible part of the fruit consumed after the complete removal of the seed and the red membrane to which it is attached (Figure 1). The average ackee pod usually contains three pegs; less frequently, two or four pegs and rarely five pegs are noted (Barnett, 1939). Figure 1. Unripe ackee fruits (1) and ripe open ackee fruits (2) showing carp (A), seeds (B) and arilli (C). 16/08/2012
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J.B. James, T.  Ngarmsak and R.S. Rolle, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific Bangkok, 2010.Assuring the safety and quality of fresh-cut produce necessitates the selection of high-quality horticultural produce for processing, and the implementation of good practice during processing operations in order to maintain produce quality and assure safety of the final product. This technical guide reviews in detail from a theoretical and practical perspective, the critical issues that must be addressed if fresh-cut products are to meet consumer and market demand for convenience, quality and safety. It provides a case study on fresh-cut processing in Thailand, and describes, the fresh-cut processing of selected fruits and vegetables produced in Thailand. It should be of practical value, to small processors, trainers, extension workers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who provide training and support to individuals engaged in the production of fresh-cut tropical produce for sale. It also provides a useful source of information for consumers of fresh-cut tropical produce. 16/08/2012
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