PhilMEC bares technologies to boost RP cacao production

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMec) has developed a viable package of technologies and good agricultural practices (GAP) that will boost the cacao industry over the long term.

The PhilMEC said this package of technologies and good agricultural practices are expected to make cacao production in the country globally competitive.

PHilMec is an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture mandated to spearhead the development of the agri-fishery sector through postharvest technologies.

In a statement, PHilMec executive director Dr. Dionisio G. Alvindia (Scientist III) said that studies and field observations conducted by the agency show that harvesting and even drying practices of cacao in the Philippines need vast improvement to upgrade the quality of dried beans that can be exported.

“Even teaching simple GAP like washing hands or using clean plastic gloves before sorting newly-harvested beans will have a great impact on improvement of the quality of dried beans,” Dr. Alvindia added.

PHilMec has develped an improved Greenhouse-type Solar Dryers (GTSD) retrofitted with biomass furnace that is an improvement of the Multi-Commodity Solar Tunnel Dryer (MCSTD).

Dr. Alvindia said the Philippines’ tropical climate will make it necessary for cacao growers to use technologies to dry their beans.

“Since the Philippines has a tropical climate, the drying of cacao beans should eb done in an efficient way that can only be accomplished with the use of the proper post-harvest equipment like the GTSD,” stressed the executive director.

Dr. Alvindia explained that the GTSD facilitates convenient regular mixing of the fermented cacao beans during periods of continuous rainfall.

Meanwhile he pointed out that poor bean quality could be resulted by improper drying of cacao beans under direct sunlight which can lead to fungal and bacterial contamination.

The biomass furnace of the GTSD, which functions as supplement heating during nighttime and periods of continuous rainfall, works by transferring heat into the dryer through the heat exchanger ducts installed along its length.

The drying trials of PHilMec showed the following results: Drying time was four days in the GSTD compared to six days drying time in the greenhouse dryer commonly used by cacao processors. The temperature inside the dryer ranged from 30°C to 60°C during daytime compared to the ambient temperature range of 25°C to 34°C. With the supplemental heating at night, the temperature ranged from 28°C to 44°C.The quality analysis of the samples showed the GTSD produced well-dried and browner cacao beans compared to the traditional greenhouse dryer.

The GTSD has a capacity to dry 702kg of fermented cacao beans and a few are in use in Davao del Sur.