Baobab approved in EU – notes on the Novel Food Process

The European Union has approved Baobab Pulp as a food processing ingredient under the EU’s novel food legislation.

BBC NEWS | UK | New exotic fruit to hit UK shops-1.jpg

from: BBC News
(click image for full story online)


two other links

African Agriculture – Baobab extract approved in EU ingredients market

Food Navigator – Baobab – newest kid on the novel foods block

This has been covered quite broadly, mainly with a focus on the potential US$ 1 billion a year market and the benefit that could flow to African Farmers. There are a few other issues that are of interest.

Novel Food Process

The Novel Food process requires application to be made for the approval of the use of foods and food ingredients not in common use for human consumption prior to 1997. A preliminary examination of the list of applications made under this legislation reveals:

  • there have been some 90 applications
  • few of these are for underutilised crops
  • baobab seems to be the only application from Africa
  • many of the applications are for GM crops and previously unused extracts
  • there is an application for the use of high pressure processing technology in fruit juice production

    This process is long and complicated, the process for Baobab took almost 2 years. To date there have been 32 approvals and 3 rejections.

    There is another route for products which can be shown to be “considered by a national food assessment body as “substantially equivalent” to existing foods or food ingredients” termed the Notification Procedure. This process is shorter and some 110 products have been approved.

    I do not claim to be fully conversant with this legislation and its application and implications, but can see that achieving approval is far from trivial – entrepreneurs should make sure that they build the necessary expenditure and time into their business plans for the commercialisation of a novel food in Europe.

    Market Size & Farmer Income

    The figures being bandied about with “up to” or “as much as” qualification, seem to be based on a report by by Ben Bennett from the UK’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI) for the Regional Trade Facilitation Programme (RTFP) – Foreign Direct Investment in South Africa: How big is Southern Africa’s natural product opportunity and what trade issues impede sectoral development?. This report makes a number of assumptions and totals the value of all products, not just pulp, from the Baobab with market prices to come to US$ 910 million. The real potential benefit to African farmers of this approval is much less given the post farmer value chain costs and the fact that a 75% loss from raw fruit is assumed.

    A Baobab Pulp Collection scheme in Malawi in 2005 paid R 150 per ton (already a half of what collectors receive for marula in South Africa) for pulp collected at the farmer. The values for the products assumed for the report referred to above ranged from 600 to 8 000 US$/ton.

    The details are sketchy but what is evident is the possibility that farmers receive only a small part of the total income from the utilisation of a unique natural resource. This raises the question of whether the products sold are able to sustain high value addition.

    What is important though is that the base is now in place and that opportunities can be addressed and the benefit to the “owners of the resource” can be optimised.

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