Taipei, March 19 (CNA) A glut of bananas resulting from bumper crops and sluggish sales will no longer become pig feed, but instead will be used to make fiber-rich, low-calorie starch for export to Japan.
A farmers' cooperative in the southern county of Pingtung later this year will begin production of resistant starch from green bananas.
The new business will help solve the problem of occasional over-production of fresh bananas in Taiwan, said Chiu Yung-feng, chairman of the Pingtung Yunghsin Fruit and Vegetable Distribution Cooperative.
The sale of fresh bananas can be so slow, particularly in summer, that the government would buy the fruit dirt cheap and use it as pig feed, Chiu told CNA Tuesday.
After repeated experiments, the cooperative has succeeded in becoming the first Taiwan manufacturer of resistant starch made from green bananas, he said. Mass production is due to begin in May after a NT$4 million plant is completed.
The cooperative recently signed a contract with a Japanese importer to provide some 20 tonnes of starch before the end of this year, and between 60 tonnes and 100 tonnes in 2014, he said. The price per kilogram is NT$300 to NT$400, depending on the purchase price of green bananas at the time.
It takes nearly 20 kilograms of bananas to make one kilogram of starch.
The Japanese importer is interested in buying from the Pingtung cooperative because the starch produced in Taiwan is purer than similar products from the Philippines, Thailand and Costa Rica, according to Chiu.
Unlike other carbohydrates such as sugars and most starches, resistant starch is not entirely broken down by the body but rather is digested like fiber, which means it passes into the large intestine intact.
Green bananas are considered a high-content source of resistant starch, which is also found in some other fruits, grains, legumes, and vegetables.
(By Chu-chen Kuo and Jay Chen)