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Development of Cottage Food Processing Enterprises in Rural Taiwan
Lin, Shin-Bong
Food Industry Research and Development Institute
P.O. Box 246, Hsinchu, Taiwan, ROC, 1995-09-01

Abstract

Taiwan's agriculture was seriously damaged during World War II, but soon recovered, and by 1952 had been restored to prewar levels. Under the government policy of "supporting industry with agriculture and developing agriculture with industry", agriculture in Taiwan made tremendous progress between 1952 and 1971. In recent years, although the structure of Taiwan's agriculture has changed as a result of industrialization, "looking after the farmers" is still the main focus of policy. This is the purpose of the project to develop "Cottage Food Processing Enterprises" in rural villages.

Abstracts in Other Languages: 中文(1305), 日本語(1480), 한국어(1471)

Introduction

Located in the subtropics, Taiwan benefits from a warm climate, ample sunshine and abundant rainfall. These features favor crop production, so that Taiwan's agriculture has played a very important role in the development of the national economy.

The "Development of Cottage Food Processing Enterprises in Taiwan's Rural Villages" is a project which has been sponsored by the government for the past two decades. It has three objectives:

  • To solve the problem of a seasonal surplus of vegetables and fruits, and balance supply and demand;
  • To enhance the technology of crop processing, and the market value of products,
  • To develop local food specialties.

Members of the Project

The members involved in the project and their responsibilities are as follows:

Council of Agriculture (equivalent to a Department of Agriculture of Ministry)

To make policy and evaluate the results of the project.

Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Taiwan Provincial Government

To receive and evaluate the initial projects from local Farmers' Associations, and verify their budgets.

District Agricultural Improvement Stations

To develop and transfer technology for producing, harvesting and transporting crops.

Food Industry Research and Development Institute (FIRDI)

To study the processing techniques used, the design of the factory, the layout of equipment and facilities, and to develop new products.

China External Trade Development Council (CETDC)

To assist local enterprises in promoting their products, and develop a design for the packaging of the products.

Local Farmers' Associations

To organize the training of farmers and conduct local projects.

Methods Used

There are several ways of helping local Farmers' Associations to develop small-scale food processing.

One method is to establish a factory in the area covered by a particular Farmers' Association. Management of the business and marketing of the products are carried out by the Farmers' Association.

Another way is to establish a factory for what is called a `Farmers' Research Group'. The members of this group have priority in supplying raw materials for processing, and the product is sold directly by the group.

A third method is to establish a packaging and transportation center in the area covered by a Farmers' Association. The finished or semi-finished product produced by the farmers is packed and sold by the local Farmers' Association.

Procedures

The procedures followed may differ from one area to another, reflecting different crops and other regional differences. The basic prerequisile for all projects is that they be organized by farmers belonging to a Farmers' Association. Their main interest may be in postharvest practices, or in packaging and transportation or some other aspect. An important first step is to invite experts to give training courses or lectures, to help members improve their techniques of breeding, planting, fertilizing, farm management or harvesting. The second step is to determine the right place for the factory and on what scale it should be. This is determined by the Farmers' Association or Research Group. The design of the factory, the layout of facilities, pilot runs, and production are carried out under the guidence of FIRDI.

General Consideratioins

Although cottage food processing is on a small scale compared with other food enterprises, it is still necessary for such businesses to follow good manufacturing practices. General procedures and sanitary precautions are as follows:

Washing

Thorough washing of fruit and vegetables is an essential step before any further treatment. A residual chlorine content of 10-20 ppm of water is recommended, to reduce the initial count of the raw materials to a minimum.

Peeling

There are three peeling methods generally used by processing plants: the use of lye, abrasive peeling and manual peeling. Lye peeling uses a perforated metal drum with an inlet through which fruit or vegetables are fed. Once in the drum, they rotate in a bath of 5 - 10% concentration of hot sodium hydroxide solution, the period of immersion time varying according to requirements.

In recent years, because of public concern about food safety, lye peeling with caustic soda is no longer recommended for peeling fresh produce. Abrasive peeling is carried out with an abrasive peeler. This is simply a drum with a rough inner surface and a motor. After the vegetables are put inside the drum, the inlet is covered and the drum is allowed to rotate for a short time. This method is more suitable for root vegetables than fruit, because the latter are usually rather soft. Sweet potato is usually peeled by this method. Manual peeling is used for fruit with tender tissues which cannot tolerate abrasive peeling.

Cutting

Cutters are usually designed according to the shape of the particular crop they are used for. Fruit or vegetables are first sliced by a fixed knife in a high-speed revolving drum, from which the slices pass by centrifugal force to a row of cross cut knives, spaced on a rotary block at intervals to suit the size required. The cross-cut knives cut the slices into strips, which pass on to a third set of circular knives that cut the strips into cubes. The last block of knives can be removed if a strip or chip cut is required (Greensmith 1971).

Blanching

Blanching is a process which inhibits the enzymatic browning of fruit and vegetables. The functions of blancing are:

  • To inactivate the enzymes present in fruit and vegetables;
  • To remove any gasses from between the tissues;
  • To soften the tissues;
  • To decrease the number of micro-organisms, and clean the tissue.

Blanching is done by hot water or steam. A conveyor is suitable for a continuous process, and the guaiacol test is used as an index for the activity of peroxidase. Whether a fruit or vegetable needs to be blanched or not depends on the activity of polyphenoloxidase or peroxidase, and the characteristics of the final product. For example, longan does not need blanching before tunnel drying, but blanching is essential for mango in making preserves.

Drying

Sun drying or solar drying of fruit and vegetables is the cheapest method used in Taiwan. To prevent contamination by sand, dirt, animal excreta etc., the sanitation of the drying place is of great importance. A closed house for sun drying has recently been developed to replace the traditional open-air system (Lin et al. 1992).

Although air drying of fruit and vegetables is still the most widely used method, there are several types of dryers available, such as cabinet dryers, tunnel dryers, fluidized bed dryers, and bin dryers. Which is best depends on the purpose, and the quality required for the final product.

For a higher quality of dried fruit or vegetables, vacuum dryers or freeze dryers must be used, in spite of the higher cost.

Packaging and Storage

Both materials and units of packaging must satisfy the following requirements:

  • They must be able to protect the product from moisture, air and light, and provide insulation from insects and vermin.
  • They must be sufficiently strong and stable to protect the product from damage by abrasion, especially during transportation and storage.
  • Packaging materials must be safe when in direct contact with the product.
  • The size and shape must be accep-table from a distribution and storage point of view.

Low temperature is the major requirement for storage of all processed foods. High temperatures accelerate the maillard reaction*, which is temperature dependent. Ideally, a warehouse temperature should not exceed 20°C. All warehouses must be able to withstand rodent and insect infestation, or there may be heavy financial losses.

Some Results of the Project

Several products have been developed by FIRDI, and the processing techniques transferred to factories belonging to Farmers' Associations or Research Groups.

Salted and Fermented Vegetables

Mustard, cucumber, bamboo shoots and radish are often eaten in Taiwan in a fermented form. They are first salted, to preserve them for further processing during the off season.

The process is as follows ( Fig. 1(1487) Fig. 2(1288)):

Bamboo Shoots Preserved in Five-Gallon Tank

Bamboo shoots are one of the most popular vegetables in Taiwan, and are available from April through to October. Some of the shoots are canned or processed in five-gallon tanks during the peak season. The flow chart is shown in Fig. 3(1258) (Lin et al. 1994).

Dried Fruit

Dried longan is a traditional food in Taiwan, and the method used for processing has been followed for a long time. Dried lychee, on the other hand, have been developed recently. Both are dried with a tunnel dryer, whereas dried persimmon is processed by solar drying. Three stages are involved in the production of dried longan or lychee, using a tunnel dryer: First Stage

The fruit are heated to 70-80°C for 24 hours, then aged for seven days to allow the moisture content of flesh and kernel to reach an equilibrium. Second Stage

The fruits are heated to 55-60°C for 8 hours, then aged again for two weeks to let the moisture content of flesh and kernel achieve equilibrium. Third Stage

The fruits are heated to 55-60°C for 6-8 hours before they are packaged ( Fig. 4(1219)) (Lin 1986).







Persimmon is dried daily by solar drying for 8-10 days, depending on the size of the fruit. To avoid spoilage from microorganisms or bleaching by enzymatic browning while the persimmon is drying, sulfur is burned in a closed room to make sulfur dioxide as a fumigant. It is used at a concentration of 10 g sulfur per m 3 for 30 min. Massaging dried persimmon is a unique step in processing this product. The purpose of this is to produce a uniform moisture content in the inside flesh and that nearer the skin, to hasten the amylase reaction, and to eliminate any vacuoles* in the tissue which might be an obstacle when moisture is moving from the interior towards the surface of the fruit ( Fig. 5(1305)) (Lin et al. 1992).

Dried Vegetables

Bamboo shoots are often dried in a tunnel dryer, as are cabbage, green bean and other vegetables. The processing of these vegetables is very similar. The flow chart for processing dried bamboo shoots is shown in Fig. 6(1381) (Lin et al. 1993).

Fruit Preserves

Some fruits, such as mango, kumquat and loquat, are processed into preserves. Mango preserves are particularly popular. The flow chart for mango preserve is shown in Fig. 7(1386) (Lin and Wang 1984).

Conclusion

Although the processing of vegetables and fruit is going well in Taiwan, and the quality of products is improving, there are still some problems to be solved. Firstly, because of the seasonal variation in crop production, the prices of vegetables and fruit are unstable. To maintain reasonable prices, it is necessary to keep a better balance between supply and demand.

The best way to solve the problem would be good planning prior to planting, an efficient communication network with production information, and policies which succeed in avoiding overproduction or underproduction.

Secondly, growing crops in Taiwan is labor intensive, and production costs are rising rapidly. However, mechanized planting or harvesting is economically unfeasible, because the planted areas are too small. It is important that land holdings be reorganized from small, fragmented areas into large, intact ones.

Thirdly, more effort should be made to improve existing crop species or introduce new varieties of fruit and vegetables, especially those suitable for processing.

Fourthly, in order to obtain adequate raw materials for processing and to stabilize prices, it is better for processors to purchase raw materials under contract rather than in the free market. This could well be beneficial to both farmers and processors in the long run. Finally, continued research to develop new products should be emphasized and encouraged.

It is hoped that information and technology of food processing by small farmers' for enterprises will be exchanged internationally, for the prosperity of all countries concerned.

References

  • Greensmith, M. 1971. Practical Dehydration. Food Trade Press Ltd., London, pp. 29-67.
  • Lin, S.B., and C.J. Wang. 1984. Processing of Mango Preserves. Food Industry Research and Development Institute, Hsinchu, Taiwan, Research Report 338, pp. 1-16. (In Chinese).
  • Lin, S.B. 1986. Processing of Dried Longan Agri-week 12, 26: 10-11. (In Chinese).
  • Lin, S.B., M.C. Hwang and W.L. Chen. 1992. Development of Cottage Food Processing Enterprises in Taiwan's Rural Villages. Food Industry Research and Development Institute, Hsinchu, Taiwan, Work Report 92T886, pp. 1-16. (In Chinese).
  • Lin, S.B., M.C. Hwang, W.L. Chen. 1993. Development of Cottage Food Processing Enterprises in Taiwan's Rural Villages. Food Industry Research and Development Institute, Hsinchu, Taiwan, Work Report 074, pp. 1-9. (In Chinese).
  • Lin, S.B., S.W. Chang, T.C. Cheng, and M.L. Leu. 1994. Development of Cottage Food Processing Enterprises in Taiwan's Rural Villages. Food Industry Research and Development Institute, Hsinchu, Taiwan, Work Report 114, pp. 1-8. (In Chinese).
Vacuole: Small space in organic tissues, containing air or fluid. Ed.

Discussion

Participants discussed whether raw materials used for food processing by farmers' associations should be produced by the farmers themselves, or imported. It was pointed out that in making miso soup in Japan, large manufacturing firms tend to use imported soybeans while local small-scale enterprises use domestically produced ones. The production costs of the latter are much higher, but many still manage to survive because consumers have such a strong interest in hand-made products and processed foods which do not contain any additives. The scale of the enterprise is important: for farmers' groups in Japan, a turnover higher than US$1 million demands more management skills than farmers are likely to possess.

Dr. Lin commented that in Taiwan, the market has been open to most imported agricultural products for the past ten years. Since 1985, the large canned juice factories have been able to import frozen juice, while local producers have concentrated on improving the quality of oranges for eating fresh. The price of both orange and mango is around US$1-2/kg. The government had solved the problem of a local surplus of mango by processing the fruit into frozen desserts when it is 50% ripe. This gives a high price of around US$3/kg. He also pointed out that when raw materials are imported, there is no control over the environment during transportation and storage. When raw materials are produced domestically, however, they can be harvested when they reach the best quality for processing.

Index of Images

Figure 1 Flow Chart for Salted Vegetables

 

Figure 1 Flow Chart for Salted Vegetables

Figure 2 Flow Chart for Fermented Bamboo Shoots

 

Figure 2 Flow Chart for Fermented Bamboo Shoots

Figure 3 Flow Chart for Bamboo Shoots Preserved in Five-Gallon Tank

 

Figure 3 Flow Chart for Bamboo Shoots Preserved in Five-Gallon Tank

Figure 4 Flow Chart for Dried Longan and Lychee

 

Figure 4 Flow Chart for Dried Longan and Lychee

Figure 5 Flow Chart for Dried Persimmon

 

Figure 5 Flow Chart for Dried Persimmon

Figure 6 Flow Chart for Dried Bamboo Shoots and Other Vegetables

 

Figure 6 Flow Chart for Dried Bamboo Shoots and Other Vegetables

Figure 7 Flow Chart for Mango Preserves

 

Figure 7 Flow Chart for Mango Preserves

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