CLARK FREEPORT — Unknown to most Filipinos, the generally ignored malunggay or kalamungge in Kapampangan (known worldwide by its scientific name moringa) is becoming an important source of foreign exchange earnings for the country.
A growing number of entrepreneurs have gone into the processing of malunggay leaves into powder form to supply the requirements of foreign-based manufacturers and exporters of food supplements and health products, according to Dr. Ed Araral, a consultant of the Pampanga State Agricultural University on agricultural crop propagation and animal husbandry.
In an interaction with members of the Capampangan in Media, Inc. (CAMI) during their weekly Friday media forum Balitaan at the Bale Balita here, Araral noted that Philippine- made malunggay powder shipped abroad is imported into the country as food supplements in capsule form and sold at an average price of P8.50 per capsule.
He said he fi nds this ironic as local processors can produce the same product cheaper and sell the same for only P1 apiece or P7.50 lower than the re-packed item abroad owing to the fact that moringa is abundant in the country.
Other malunggay-based products, like butter processed abroad from the seeds of moringa, is marketed locally in high-end outlets and unaffordable to ordinary Filipino consumers.
“It is for this reason why I am pushing for two initiatives that urge state action to spur the growth of the malunggay processing industry as well as encourage the wider cultivation of malunggay trees and the consumption of products derived from this source of the now widely recognized super food,” Araral said.
One of his proposed initiatives, which Araral planned to submit to the 5th National Moringa Convention also held last Friday at the nearby Mimosa Convention Center here, calls on the Bureau of Food and Drugs Administration (BFDA) to adopt a policy that will hasten the accreditation of locally- made moringa food supplements/ health products.
This lack of policy has both hampered the growth of the local morinaga industry for medical and food supplements and put it at a disadvantage visa- vis its foreign competitors, he said without ticking off any hard data as to the size of this sector in terms of volume output and export, number of entities engaged in this business, as well as the number of employed by the industry.
Araral’s other initiative prompts the Department of Education (DepEd) to require all primary and secondary students to plant at least three moringa trees and encourage the consumption of processed products of malunggay, which he described as the “most nutritious source of vitamins, minerals and protein among all food products.”
For instance, he pointed out, malunggay yields essential amino acids similar to what is found in milk, fish and meat. Advocates of moringa claim the leaves of this tree pack seven times the vitamin C of oranges; eight times
the vitamin A of carrots; four times the calcium of milk; three times the Potassium of bananas, and two times the
protein of yogurt apart from being a good source for fiber and iron.
In countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and others in the African continent anecdotal data claim that the leaves of malunggay yield more than 90 nutrients and 46 antioxidants, and their consumption could deter and cure such “silent killers” as hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure) and atherosclerosis (arteries hardening) — an awareness that has caught on in highly-developed markets, like the US and European countries.
This explains the sudden surge in the demand for products derived from this tree, like powdered leaves and oil squeezed from its seeds that has found used in the manufacture of high-value butter and even beauty products, creating a huge market potential for this tree that thrives in the Philippines and other tropical Asian and African countries.
The moringa tree is very easy to propagate with very little amount of water. In the African language the moringa
tree is known as the “neverdie- tree” because of its ability to survive in acute dry conditions. Its leaves are the most nutritious part of the tree and are widely used in salads, curries and chutneys, for instance, in India and in the Philippines.