The Beesness of Honey

March 5, 2009

This is a nice article on honey in rural Kenya.



(click image for full story online)


Of particular interest is the fact that the traditional hive, with some of its disadvantages is widely used because of the high cost (US$ 100) of commercial hives. Also that honey separation is done by a co-operative because of the cost of a separator.

The group of 40 beekeepers produced 8 000 kg of raw honey which had a value of US$ 8 000 or US$ 200/person/year. The co-operative was able to sell separated honey for US$ 8/kg indicating the possibility of value addition.

The potential of honey may be large given the difficulties in Europe and USA where swarms are being wiped out by colony collapse disorder and the possibility of moving toward own processing, organic, ethical and FAIRTRADE honey with much larger incomes.



The 3Rs of Pollution Prevention

September 16, 2008

This document by The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control identifies Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as the path to reducing pollution from Food Processing.

This simple document makes one think of what goes in in the process and is worth a quick read. Reducing inputs of course reduces product cost and waste and in my opinion is the preferred approach. Recycling and Reusing are reactive measures and have associated with them the waste of energy and water resulting from repeat processing.

A Pollution Prevention Guide for Food Processors

I am able to email you this document if you require please email me here with 3Rs in the subject line.

Baobab approved in EU – notes on the Novel Food Process

July 16, 2008

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‚Äôs 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.

  • Food Industry – Biogas

    April 16, 2008

    Energy and Food Waste are becoming major issues in Africa at present, with warning of dire consequences if the existing trends continue. One technology that sits at the intersection of these sectors is the treatment of processing waste using anaerobic digestion – or biogas.

    Biogas is a simple process that is used at household level by millions and is increasingly being used in Europe as part of the sustainable energy drive.

    Any organic waste can be fermented in simple ambient reactors over a long period, producing a combustible mixture of gasses consisting mainly of CO2 and Methane. Environmentally, burning Methane is beneficial because it has a hothouse effect some 14 times that of CO2 and is often naturally released by fermenting waste.

    The liquid remaining after fermentation is stable and not noxious, even if the waste fed to the process are eg human waste and can be used as a fertiliser.

    In household processes gas is used for direct heating and lighting, while in industrial applications is can generate electricity which can be sold to the grid.

    There has recently been news of a commercial approach in Canada

    Food firms set to benefit from biogas boom.jpg

    Food Production

    Ontario-based StormFisher Biogas is forming partnerships with North American food and drinks firms to allow it to use the organic by-products of farming and food processing operations to produce and sell renewable energy.

    “Food processors typically send their by-products to landfills or compost sites. Since we are able to extract more value from these by-products by using the energy they create, we are able to charge a lower disposal fee than landfill and compost sites”.

    He added that another advantage afforded processors was environmental stewardship: “This allows food processors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since the gases that are produced by these by-products are used to create energy, rather then seeping into the atmosphere.”

    “When captured and used to generate energy, however, methane serves as an excellent fuel and provides the dual environment benefit of being sequestered from the atmosphere and displacing traditional, polluting forms of energy like coal.”

    Low Foodmile Snacks

    March 2, 2008

    We in South Africa and probably in much of Africa look at the Food Mile concept as a novelty which doesn’t really effect us – maybe wrongly. Now following low fat and low calories snacks we have Low Foodmile snacks

    UK snack firms focus on food miles.jpg

    The article discussed Boot’s (sandwiches) and Walkers (potato crisps) are trying to increase the content of raw materials grown in Britain in response to their consumer’s perceived needs. Of course the effect on the environment is much more complex than just changing a raw material supplier but its a start.

    Probably the concept is difficult to implement where the consumer is driven first and foremost by the amount of food they can access for the spending power they have -worry about the impact on the environment is more appropriate to the wealthier consumer who worries about things like organic food, natural additives and ethical trading.

    I will probably publish a bit about Foodmiles and related environmentally focussed issues on my African Agribusiness Issues Blog as there is much discussion of the concept.

    The Rising Cost of Ingredients

    January 6, 2008

    As food processors, our raw material costs are normally a large fraction of our total cost of production.

    SAFPP Weblog-1.jpg

    There is no arguing the fact that the cost of many raw materials are rising. The reasons for these are numerous including the:

    • changeable weather experienced world wide
    • the increase in the crude oil price and therefore the cost of transport
    • the effect of biofuels on the availability of cereals and oil seeds
    • the effect of biofuels on land allocation – ie land previously used for ingredients being allocated to biofuel crop production

    The question is what can the food processor do about this? In a theoretical way we could:

    • increase our price, but we also need to think how that effects our customers
    • look for cheaper ingredients or change ingredients but then need to think of what that will do to our quality
    • change our production to higher value added, high margin products
    • increase our material yield figures by reducing our losses

      As I say that’s all very theoretical – I would be interested to hear from you (email me here) with your thoughts and experience.

    Canning Factory Picture

    December 6, 2007

    Came across this image the other day on Wikimedia Commons the other day.

    Preservation Factory

    It’s interesting that this is still very much recognisable as a canning factory, would this be the same for a dairy or bakery?