Coconut sap sugar production: from farm to market and from wealth to health
Coconut sap sugar is derived from the nutritious toddy/sweet sap (tuba) oozing out from a cut in the unopened inflorescence which contains 12-18 percent sugar naturally. With the heat evaporation of boiling the toddy/sap at 115 deg C, granulated sugar can be formed. This promising product from coconut is a healthy form of sugar. A simple farm based technology of producing a high-value product has become a successful income boosting small enterprise. Increasing demand for this sugar both locally and abroad for its health benefits has attracted many investors in the industry. Human blood sugar assay using healthy human subjects were given measured coconut sap sugar samples and their blood sugar levels were monitored. The response of human subjects to the coconut sap sugar was the basis to calculate the Glycemic Index of coconut sap sugar. The test shows that it has a low glycemic index (35 percent) which means that this sugar can be used as natural sweetener and no bad effects to diabetics. Likewise, it did not cause hyperglycemia in rats fed with this sugar from the oral glucose test conducted in UP Diliman [Philippines]. Results of these studies suggests that this can be recommended as healthy source of sweetener for diabetic patients. And as an invert sugar, this is also a valuable sweetener in food and pharmaceutical applications due to its desirable properties i.e. high osmotic pressure, high solubility and humid nature. It can be applied as syrups in pharmaceutical industry, substitute for honey, for infant foods and as intravenous injectables for diabetics. Profitability analysis of the sugar production as an income-boosting enterprise shows that with a one-hectare of farm planted to hybrids or dwarf varieties, a farmer can earn more or less Php 600,000 in a year from 100 flowering coconut trees. Sensitivity analysis shows that with the reduction of price by 10-20 percent the enterprise is still profitable. But, with the 16 percent reduction of toddy/sap supply from an average assumption of 3 liters per tree/day and 10 percent decrease in the cost of sugar, the net income will decrease by 50 percent. Further decrease of 33 percent of toddy supply and 20 percent decrease in price are unprofitable. It can be deduced from this economic analysis that coco-sugar enterprise is a commercially-viable farm level technology that will offer available healthy sweetener to consumers with high-sugar level. Promising opportunities for coconut farmers are available that will increase their farm income because of this value-adding product from tapping the tree of life prior to nut production.