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Thursday, Apr 25, 2002

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Banana baby food on the anvil

G.K. Nair

KOCHI, April 24

THE Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK), which has been appointed a nodal agency by the Common Fund for Commodities, has come out with a project proposal for manufacturing value-added banana-based products.

A project for developing banana-based value added baby food has already been sent to CFC's evaluation committee, Mr K R Viswambharan, Director VFPCK, told Business Line. He said the committee had asked for certain clarifications and that would be provided to them within a week. After the approval of the evaluation committee, the proposal would go to the Central Committee of CFC. By year-end, he expressed the hope that implementation of the project could begin. ``It is a multi-national project involving apart from India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Dr Mohan Pillai, Director of its Horticulture Research Centre, said VFPCK had been appointed by CFC as a nodal agency to evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of producing various value-added banana-based products including juices, baby food, chips, vaccines for e-coli and hepatitis, as well as the utilisation of banana stem for various uses.

VFPCK had already developed a technology for manufacturing nutritious baby food using nendran variety of banana and wanted to commercialise it. Besides, it had a project for commercial exploitation of banana pseudo-stem fibre for manufacturing paper and environment friendly handicraft items such as carrybags, mats etc. It could also assist other countries by providing them with technology and expertise in their efforts to use the raw materials available there for manufacturing all these products.

Once the project was translated into reality that would enhance the income of the members of the self-help groups formed under the Kerala Horticulture Development Programme (KHDP). They would be the producer and supplier of the raw materials. Above all these farmers would be trained in doing the value addition and in the manufacture of other items using the fibre.

He said the production of banana-based products would also enhance the potential for more nendran cultivation in Kerala probably only where it is predominantly grown apart from building up cottage industries for manufacturing the fibre products.

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