By RALPH LAUREN ABAINZA
Moringa is one of the world’s most useful trees, and is often dubbed the “Miracle Tree” because almost every part can be beneficial for humans and animals. Locally known as malunggay, moringa leaves and seed oil are major raw materials used in the food and nutrition industry, cosmetics, and herbal medicine in the Philippines. Despite the growing moringa industry, there is still a shortage of quality moringa raw materials.
Experts shared production technologies and market opportunities of moringa during the two-day Usapang Agribiz: A Virtual Agribusiness Opportunities Forum on Moringa/Malunggay spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS) last November 8-9, 2022.
Evangeline Orejola, President of the Chamber of Herbal Industries in the Philippines, Inc., highlighted the usefulness of the moringa plant and its high nutritional value compared to other common vegetables and fruits. She shared that, locally, moringa leaves are now being processed to produce capsules, tablets, softgels, syrups, coffees, and teas. She also elaborated on the processes each product will undergo and the permits needed to manufacture.
As a tip to those who would like to start planting moringa, Orejola shared that the lifespan of moringa plants that started from seeds is much longer than those that started from cuttings. “They said that it [those started from seeds] will reach about 50 years, compared to cuttings, that it’s around 30 years, as per my interview with the farmers,” she said.
Moringaling Philippines Foundation, Inc. proposed a PhP 150 million of funding from the Department of Agriculture to spearhead a nationwide project, wherein each region will have 10 hectares of malunggay farm, according to its managing director Jonathan Nollora. “Each region will have the nutrition and the supply, kasi yun ang wala tayo [because that’s what we’re lacking’,” he said.”Wala tayong farm ng malunggay [we don’t have farm of moringa], most of our malunggay is nakakalat [scattered], backyard, and they’re not gonna qualify for export,” he added.
While moringa is a household vegetable in the Philippines, the country still lacks the facilities and modules to be able to maximize its potential. Vilmido Avanceña, a former college instructor and now the President of Mauswag Agribusiness Inc. in Bicol, shared some challenges they encountered while developing products from moringa. He shared that when they were starting their business, there were still no standard procedures for the processing of leaves and there was no available processing equipment. This, in turn, pushed them to develop their own procedures and modify readily available equipment, which they are now sharing with other farmers. He also shared that despite its nutritional value, moringa as a nutrient supplement is still not widely appreciated in the country due to a lack of awareness. He emphasized the need for direct participation of the government to promote and use moringa in their programs.
Kenneth Fernandez, a Senior Specialist from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shared the initiatives of the department to help the micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) venturing into moringa agribusiness. He shared that those who are interested in starting a business in moringa can readily visit and inquire through their Negosyo Centers and field offices to guide them with the processes. DTI’s Shared Service Facilities (SSFs) are also enabling moringa farmers and traders to add value to their products through better access to technology. In support of local traders, he shared that the DTI is also assisting in the development and identity-making of local products. The government initiatives are there, there is just a need to communicate and spread them to local stakeholders.
In closing, Mimi Tolentino of the DA-AMAS shared that the presentations further proved that moringa is indeed a “superfood” and there’s really a need for a collaborative effort from the government. “By 2024 po, kasama ito sa gagawan ng road map [By 2024, this (moringa) will be included in (commodities) that will have a roadmap],” she shared.
For more information, you can watch the forum Day 1 and Day 2 through the Facebook page of DA-AMAS: