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Government Suggests Using Solar Tunnel Driers to Preserve Fish

29 January 2013

PHILIPPINES - When there is a glut of harvest from sea or there is a need to preserve sea products, coastal communities and fishers use the sun for drying or an area for smoking to preserve fish and other sea foods. These two systems are unreliable when the skies are overcast or during rainy days.It is also unhealthy.

Unknown to many in the fish sector, there is a machine that could improve their products and operations, and it is called the multi-commodity solar tunnel driers (MCSTDs).

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, is encouraging more enterprises involved in the production of dried fish to invest in MCSTDs to vastly improve the quality their products, their operations and their income.

PhilMech is making the recommendation because many dried fish producers, mostly those involved in small- or medium-scale production, dry their fish on mats laid out on the road or in areas that are hardly clean. Such practices could result in dried fish being contaminated with fungi, bacteria, and mites.

The agency is also pushing for the wider use of these driers to help in government’s efforts to promote the development of small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), particularly those based in the countryside that are into processing food said Rex L. Bingabing, PhilMech executive director, in a press statement.

These machines will help farmers and fishers prepare at such a time when, in 2015, at the Asean common market, farm commodities, among others, will have lowered tariffs.

“With farm products from other Asean nations entering the Philippines, farmers and fisher folk should find ways to improve the efficiency of their operations, and quality of their produce to remain competitive,” he further said.

Among the commodities that could be dried using MCSTD are nuts, bananas, cassava, and mushroom.

PhilMech is also testing the use of the multi-commodity solar tunnel drier on other farm commodities. The PhilMech director cited a group in Marinduque that uses MCSTD to dry rimas (a kind of breadfruit) for flour production.

For dried fish, Bingabing said that using the drier will allow dried fish producers to reduce drying time by up to 25 percent and improve quality since the fish being dried are not exposed to the air.

Aside from using multi-commodity solar tunnel driers, PhilMech will formulate interventions such as informing and educating fish processors to undertake steps to improve sanitary standards in the procedures of producing dried and smoked fish.

Dried, attractively packaged fish can fetch a higher price and could attract high-end buyers in the domestic and export markets.

Bingabing cited the example of Keno Foods Inc. in Bustos, Bulacan that has been using an MCSTD to produce dried tilapia known as tilanggit.

The PhilMech-developed MCSTD is a modification of the solar tunnel dryer (STD) developed by researchers of the Hohenheim University in Germany.

An MCSTD costs between P180,000 to P230,000 depending on size or dimensions.

Various designs of the solar tunnel drier are in use in over 60 countries, and PhilMech’s modified its design took into account the availability of locally available materials, reduced cost, and ease of construction and site installation.

TheFishSite News Desk

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