Demonstration of Technologies and Training of Growers for Handling and Value Addition of Fruits and Vegetables in Gilgit-Baltistan

*Corresponding author: Faizullah Khan*, Tariq Umar Khan, Muhammad Ayub, Rehmat Kabir and Tajuddin

Citation

Khan F, Khan TU, Ayub M, Kabir R, Tajuddin. Demonstration of technologies and training of growers for handling and value addition of fruits and vegetables in Gilgit-Baltistan. Adv Food Technol Nutr Sci Open J. 2019; 5(2): 67-72. doi: 10.17140/AFTNSOJ-5-158

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original research

Abstract

The present activity was conducted to execute fruit handling, processing, preservation, dehydration and value addition trainings in Gilgit-Baltistan, to control wastages/losses of fruits and vegetable which is above 60% of total production.

To prepare fruit pulp for fruit preservation using potassium metabisulphite (K2O5S2). To develop household level methods for development of value added products like fruit jam, tomato paste, mix vegetable pickle and dehydrated apricot.

The research work for method development was carried out at Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR) Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Methods were developed with recommended dosages of chemical preservatives. A total of two days training courses were conducted focusing fruit handling, processing, preservation, dehydration and value addition of fruits and vegetables at 4 different locations in 4 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan (Skardu, Diamer, Hunza and Shigar).

The research work for method development was carried out at Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR) Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Methods were developed with recommended dosages of chemical preservatives. A total of two days training courses were conducted focusing fruit handling, processing, preservation, dehydration and value addition of fruits and vegetables at 4 different locations in 4 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan (Skardu, Diamer, Hunza and Shigar).

The basic objectives of training were to control wastages/losses of fruits, income generation of fruit growers through sale of fruit, value added products and to contribute to ensure food security issue in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Introduction

Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is one of the most important parts of Pakistan (geographically it is connected with China and India) which extends over an area of 27,188 sq miles. Administratively, Gilgit-Baltistan is distributed into 10 Districts (Gilgit, Skardu, Diamer, Astore, Ghanche, Ghizer, Hunza, Nagar, Shigar and Kharmang) having a population of 2 million people. The main issue in Gilgit-Baltistan is food security, as cultivated lands are less than one kanal per capita.1,2 The people of GB are totally dependent on wheat supplied through Government on subsidized rates from Punjab.3,4 The climatic conditions of GB are suitable for abundant, delicious, high-quality fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are the main source of income generation for the area. According to agriculture statistics 2014,5 the pre- and post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables are 50% and according the survey of center for public health initiatives (CPHL) project PCSIR6 these losses exceed 60% of produce. The total fruit production in GB is 1,49,769 metric tons (Apricot 1,08,588 tons, Apple 19,054 tons, Grapes 6,413 tons, Pear 2,579 tons, Peach 3,308 tons, Pomegranate 4,287 tons, Cherry 2,256 tons, Mulberry 9,092 tons, Walnut 5,992 tons, Almond 1,700 tons and Sea buckthorn 3,600 tons). Due to lack of processing, preservation, testing, transportation, communication and research a large amount of fruits, vegetables are wasted and do not reach the markets as the fruits are highly perishable. To cope with growing demand of fruits and vegetables without bringing more land under cultivation, prevention of post-harvest losses can play a vital role. Training farming community in processing, preservation, dehydration and value addition of fruits and vegetables can control post-harvest losses.

Demand of chemically preserved fruit pulp and semiprocessed fruits is on the rise among the food industry of Pakistan. Demand has also risen for dehydrated fruit, pulp and other value-added products in the western market. A number of importers from Europe have shown their interest in the import of dry apricot from Gilgit-Baltistan.9 According to Baltistan Culture Development Foundation (BCDF) Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan there was an order of 3,500 tons dried apricot from a single party from the United Kingdom during the year 2014, but they failed to collect 10 tons of dehydrated dry apricot of international standard. This project aims to address this issue through training of selected progressive farmers of 4 districts of GB which will be extended to all 10 districts. The training sessions will enable farmers to process their products according to Hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP), World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommended standards, with recommended chemical preservatives/doses and to produce quality value-added products in accordance with international requirements. This would not only help to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the farmers but help to cater local and international demands.

For export of value-added fruit products, each product must contain its nutritional profile amounts of preservatives, expiration date and testing/analysis certificate from any ISO17025 certified accredited laboratory. The project will address this issue with purchase of the required laboratory testing equipment through this project. Sometimes, even the hygienic and best quality fruits/ value-added products are rejected during export due to inappropriate packaging material, large in volume and weight, unattractive and without required printed information in packaging material. Packaging machines were used to train the farmers, the training included packaging that is recommended, attractive, low in volume/ size and with required information supplied in the packing materials.

In order to minimize these post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables, PCSIR established a Demonstration-Cum Training Center in Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan which is equipped with processing and testing/analysis, qualified and skilled scientist/food technologists. Now PCSIR Demonstration-Cum Training Center Skardu has been upgraded to PCSIR Laboratories Skardu. It has been providing processing, testing and research facilities in GilgitBaltistan. Fruits and vegetables processing training provided to farmers during the past few years have yielded excellent results.

Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (PCSIR) Skardu has also been extending the expertise of their scientists, processing and Lab. facilities to the other allied departments and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)such as, Agha Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP),Mountain Areas Farmer Support Organization(MAFSO), Ghizer Women Development Social Welfare Organization (GWDSWO), Agribusiness Support Fund (ASF), Baltistan Cultural Development Foundation (BCDF) and Agriculture Department to conduct fruit and vegetable dehydration and preservation training at Demonstration Cum Training Center Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

To realize the need of processing of fruits and vegetables, Karakoram International University (KIU) started BSc (Hons) and MSc (Hons) degree programs at Department of Agriculture and Food Technology, Gilgit where students are educated/trained about processing of fruits. The processing training for the majority of farmers needs to be given in the future to control the existing losses/wastages of fruits though skill development in processing. The PCSIR, Skardu needs financial support to conduct processing, preservation, dehydration and value addition of fruits and vegetables training throughout the Gilgit-Baltistan (all 10 Districts) and to procure some essential Lab. equipment. Therefore, a proposal for these endeavors has been submitted to Agriculture Linkage Program (ALP) Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), Islamabad.

Results and Discussion

The methods developed for fruit jam, tomato paste, vegetable pickle and dehydration of apricot (organically and inorganically). The organoleptically recommended best methods were compiled and 1400 copies of fruit processing booklets were printed. The accepted formulae are shown in Table 1, the two days fruit handling, processing, preservation, dehydration and value addition training were given according to these methods/recipes.

Training on Fruit Processing

Conducted 16 training courses, each lasting 2 days, consisting of 491 fruit growers/farmers trained at fruit harvesting, handling processing, preservation, dehydration and value addition during the reporting year in 4 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan (Skardu, Diamer, Hunza and Shigar). The training were given to 16 groups at 16 different location, 4 groups/location in each district and one group consist of 30-36 participants (Table 2). All the required preservatives, processing chemicals, bottles, head covers, facemasks, gloves, pen, writing pads, training schedule, processing booklets and fruit survey questionnaires in Urdu were provided to the trainees in a folder. The fruit growers/farmers practically performed all the training activities to get hands-on training. The officials and trainees appreciated the material provided in the fruit processing booklet. All trainees participated with keen interest. After fruit processing and preservation training, it is expected that the fruit growers/farmers will preserve their fruits, and the wastage of fruits will be minimal and they are likely to get maximum benefits from their produce.

Fruit Value-added Product Development Training

The training were conducted at household level i.e. how to prepare these products using kitchen utensils’ no additional utensil/ equipment were purchased except fruit processing chemicals. The recommended methods/recipes/formulas were used for product development. The fruit growers/farmers practically performed this value-added product development. After practical training the chemicals were provided to each trainee from project (i.e. Potassium Metabisulphite 40 g, Citric Acid 30 g and Pectin 30 g) and given task to prepare Apple/Apricot jam at their homes at the evening of the first day of training. More than 58% training participants prepared Apple/Apricot Jam at their homes after receiving training using the provided chemicals. The list of trainees is shown in Table 3 developed jam at home after practical. The quality of developed jam was good but some training participants have not properly judged the time of removal of jam from stove. The 2nd day the jams prepared by trainees were examined by project team and the trainees were explained about the quality of their jam, their deficiency were identified and were advised how to eradicate them. The value-added products receive premium prices in local and international markets. Prolonged fruit shelf life will help in developing the cottage industry (small scale fruit processing industry) at the village level in Gilgit-Baltistan, which will be a new avenue of income generation and source of income generation for the mountain communities.

Dehydration of Apricot

Apricot dehydration training both organically and inorganically with recommended standards were given to 16 groups consist of 491 selected fruit growers in 4 districts. Dehydration of apricot was common and most of the farmers dehydrate their fruits but unfortunately they do not follow recommended methods, and dehydration occurs in a non-hygienic manner with banned methods and overdose of chemical preservatives.

During training it was noted that some farmers dehydrate their fruits with chemical preservatives (Potassium Metabisulphite) without any measurements and they have no idea about the recommended dosage. During training it was strictly told to the farmers about use of preservatives within recommended dosages (i.e. 1 g/kg of fruit). Some farmers/growers also preserve their fruits through smoke of raw Sulphur (a traditional practice of the area); it was stringently advised to avoid this practice. It was also noted during training that some fruit growers dehydrate their fruits on the roadside and other places and that they do not take care for the quality of product and hygiene of product or self-hygiene. In all training, lectures on product quality and hygiene was given and its importance was practically demonstrated i.e., to cover their head with head covers, use of facemask and gloves while working and the trainers advised that it protects you and the product.

Demonstration Use of Fruit Processing Machinery

The participants were trained on use of fruit processing machinery for fruit pulp extraction, fruit/vegetable peelings, fruit crushing, chips cutting machinery, fitted on Mobile Training Unit (MTU). Skill development on the use of fruit processing machinery will be helpful in processing and preservation of fruits at commercial scale and in developing processing industry at GilgitBaltistan level. The farmers appreciated and took keen interest in the use of machinery. In some training locations, there was no road access for MTU; hence demonstration of commercial-scale machinery fitted in MTU could be performed.

Conclusion

The findings of these training activities showed that fruit processing training are likely to help control wastages/losses of fruits and vegetables. Value addition of fruits is expected to become a source of income generation so that the growers can get maximum benefits of their fruits/produce. Ultimately, this will become a step towards self-sufficiency of the people of GilgitBaltistan. Skill development in use of fruit processing machinery will lead towards the establishment of fruit processing industry in GB.