Regional Breadfruit Initiative Test Mills Flour In Am. Samoa

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Gluten-free product called ‘a milestone achievement’

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Jan. 20, 2016) – For the first time in the territory, a small-scale test mill produced gluten free, low glycemic index flour in American Samoa after University of Hawaii Professor of Food Science Dr. Alvin Huang, assisted by Representative Su’a Alex Jennings, successfully assembled and tested the small-scale test mill that arrived last week on Hawaiian Airlines.

Papalii Dr. Tusi Avegalio, UH Pacific Business Center Program Director (PBCP) and Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative (PRBI) project manager told Samoa News the machine milled locally-dried breadfruit into a fine powdered flour identical in appearance to imported wheat flour purchased at the store. The flour was milled at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) Community Resource Center Land Grant lab and represented "a milestone achievement for the new industry."

Land grant staff, WIC and Department of Commerce representatives were present as observers after a formal presentation was cancelled due to late arrival of the mill and time needed to assemble and test the new mill. Land Grant Director Tapaau Dr. Dan Aga expressed his gratitude for the amazing work to date while holding a ziplock bag of the first breadfruit flour milled in American Samoa as a historical memento for ASCC.

The last goal for the Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative (PRBI) is the successful field testing of the solar powered dehydrator on a remote island, completing the development of a system from planting, drying and milling of breadfruit that can then be transferred to the U.S. territories to stimulate economic development.

Papalii said the goals from developing an effective breadfruit drying process to the successful production of flour to the development of easy to produce breadfruit products that can be made locally for immediate use were achieved in the territory within six months. These initial products can be used in the school lunch program, WIC, patient care and elderly care food services.

More specialized breadfruit product lines can also be manufactured for export as soon as heavy milling and manufacturing equipment and facility can be ordered and installed.

Papalii’s decision to consolidate the remaining research and development grant resources in one area — American Samoa — to develop prototypes as part of a transferrable system that can be shared to all the U.S. Territories has proven a risky but effective decision.

"The decision focused the resources vs. spreading it out to the U.S. Territories that would have significantly delayed goal achievement due to distance (thousands of miles); technical, physical resources and local capacity limitations, and timely testing/feed back data sharing essential in research and development," he said.

According to Papali’i with the successful milling of quality ulu flour last week at the ASCC/CRC Land grant facility, the Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative (ulu project) is now fully one year and six+ months ahead of schedule.

Papali’i predicts the potential for the development of light manufacturing to support the breadfruit industry can be realized within months.

The development, design, implementation and successful operation of a locally developed 100% off grid solar power dehydrator utilizing a freight container for drying ulu and deployable to remote islands with limited resources and groves of ulu was completed in October 2015.

He says the first exports can start as early as December 2016. "Every aspect of the industry from ground to table has been examined, tested and affirmed for application and operationalization. It’s turn-key at an amazing scale. We'll have the markets secured by March and only need to guarantee we can ship the pallets of ulu products in the quantities required."

Papali’i envisions ASCC and Tafuna VocTech being linked to the industrial park located ulu industry and light manufacturing for internships, training and employment after graduation.

He stated, "An extraordinary aspect of the drying unit is that Representative Su’a also has the capacity to make parts locally to assure local maintenance and inventory of parts for the mixed technology-drying unit he helped to create with Professor Huang."

The local capacity development model can be transferred to all participating island governments interested in implementing the PRBI in their jurisdictions, Papali’i noted.

Samoa News will report on the remaining developments in the Ulu initiative in later editions.

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