Breadfruit: The new tree of life

By Joyetter Luamanu ,

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ULU GATHERING: The participants attending the two-day Breadfruit Summit being held in Apia.

ULU GATHERING: The participants attending the two-day Breadfruit Summit being held in Apia. (Photo: Joyetter Luamanu)

The humble breadfruit tree has been added to the list of trees identified as trees of life. 

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, added the ulu tree when he opened the Pacific and Global Breadfruit Summit at the T.A.T.T.E building yesterday. 

The two-day Summit brings together Professors, Scientists, Food analysts, Economists and Farmers in Samoa. The theme for this year is “Home of the ma’afala”. 

The Minister said the meeting is about sharing the benefits of the breadfruit. The Pacific Islands and Caribbean are the major production areas. 

Lopao’o said ulu also helped mitigate climate change effects when planted on clear land. 

“All parts of the tree are used to provide food, timber, animal feed, even the male flower if properly processed can be used as a mosquito repellant,” said Lopao’o. 

“In terms of value adding, there has been considerable interest and drive in Hawaii, Caribbean and Pacific Islands to develop the most efficient economical way to process the fruit into flour and appropriate products made from the flour and to package breadfruit tips and frozen breadfruits chunks and slices.

“It can be stated that the breadfruit tree is comparable to the coconut tree in terms of cultural social and economic significant to island societies and environment.” 

The Minister pointed out the first international symposium on breadfruit research and development was held in April 2007 in Nadi, Fiji where the focus was on issues related to breadfruit conservation research and development and recommendations concerning projects and future priorities. 

The second meeting was the two Samoa’s Ulu Summit held in December 2012, which highlighted the need to join research efforts to improve the utilization of breadfruit. 

“The summit deliberated on important matters relating to the primary production post-harvest technologies and value added processing for gluten-free flour and other food products, with the desired outcome of establishing a breadfruit flour industry for the two Samoa’s to tap into markets in the U.S and Japan.” 

He said in Samoa the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries continued to assist with the mass production of breadfruit planting material and dissemination of information regarding the production and maintenance of the crop. 

“Scientific Research Organization of Samoa has provided this crop and continues to look for value-added products including the well-known gluten-free flour that is being produced and in the early stage of commercialization. 

ON THE AGENDA: The C.E.O of M.A.F, Tilafono David Hunter (left) at the meeting.
ON THE AGENDA: The C.E.O of M.A.F, Tilafono David Hunter (left) at the meeting.

“The reason why we say early stages of commercialization is because we need to change the law that operates SROS, we don’t have any interest from the private sector yet to take this product,” said the Minister. 

Part of the Ulu Summit is the Agricultural Show where there will be demonstration of local Samoan breadfruits. This week the global model breadfruit dehydrator prototype will be showcased. The dehydration systems will be crucial for developing a global market for breadfruit flour as consumers are becoming more health conscious. 

In the U.S.A alone there is a multibillion-dollar health market for gluten-free low glycemic food products.

A welcoming cocktail was held at Hotel Tanoa Tusitala last night.

The Subregional Coordinator of F.A.O, Eriko Hibi, spoke about the importance of the summit. This is what she said: 

“It is significant that the Government of Samoa has chosen this occasion, at the time of the international commemoration of World Food Day, which is tomorrow (today), to remind us of the significance of a crop that has its roots in the history of the Pacific and is potentially a key to future food security and nutrition of people in the Pacific and beyond.

F.A.O’s mandate is to achieve food security for all – to make sure people have regular access to enough high quality food to lead active healthy lives. We are playing an increasingly catalytic role in linking the food production sector and health for improved nutrition in general. Our vision of our activities in the Pacific for the next five years is towards ensuring a “sustainable increase in production, trade and marketing of domestic agriculture products, and healthy consumption of diverse, safe and nutritious food.” 

Because of the potential it offers, breadfruit is seen as a symbol of what F.A.O aims to pursue in the next five years in the Pacific. 

First, it is a locally produced plentifully grown food crop with huge potential for domestic consumption. It can facilitate import substitution, which would result in an improved trade balance and reduced vulnerability to external shocks such as price fluctuations. 

Secondly, breadfruit can help in the fight against non-communicable disease (N.C.Ds) through improved nutrition. It is a safe whole food, supplying key vitamins and minerals, complex carbohydrates, while offering moderate energy free of gluten. In the fight against N.C.Ds, breadfruit and taro and other traditional local crops have a significant role to play in improving nutrition in Samoa and in many other countries.

Thirdly, it is also a cash crop with huge potential for export, as flour or in other forms.  The future for developing niche export markets should not be underestimated as globally , consumers are looking towards products that are nutritious and readily available.  

Fourthly, promotion of agricultural crops such as breadfruit can be key to increasing job opportunities, reinvigorating the agriculture production and processing sectors, which would lead to increased livelihood opportunities for the youth. 

With so much potential to offer, breadfruit is a symbol of hope for improved food security and nutrition in Samoa and beyond. That is why F.A.O has supported the work with the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa and the organization of this important Summit. I wish to raise a toast to the future of this amazing crop!”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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