Ahmedabad: A nutritious candy rich in vitamins and iron made out of banana stem could be a part of the mid-day meal scheme for Gujarat school children grappling with the problem of malnutrition.
Recently, a Gujarat government official has shown interest in introducing the candy in mid-day meal scheme of the state schools, Navsari Agriculture University (NAU) scientist B L Kolambe.
"Costing less than a rupee, the candy made out of banana plant has medicinal value. It is made out of central core (stem) of the plant`s pseudostem," Kolambe said.
"The candy is rich in fibre, iron and vitamin B, and suitable to meet the nutritive requirements in anemic (having less than normal quantity of hemoglobin in blood) children," Kolambe said.
"During tests conducted at Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, the candy was found safe for human consumption, and all the fibre in it was revealed to be digestible fibre," he claimed.
When contacted, Gujarat government spokesperson Saurabh Patel said that it is a positive development to deal with malnutrition problem and we will have a look over it.
As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-III, 49.2 per cent of the state`s children were stunted. It was realised that malnutrition among women, adolescent girls and children was the underlying cause of death due to common ailments. Thus, state government has given top priority to malnutrition, says Gujarat`s Socio-Economic Review 2012-13 reports.
During 2011-12, on an average 41.40 lakh children of standard I to VIII were provided hot cooked meal per day in 33,396 schools through 29,977 MDM (mid-day meal) centres. The number of children went up to 43.17 lakh up to September 2012, says a state report.
NAU has standardised the technology to convert the waste of banana plant into various useful products, including this edible candy with nutritional values.
"Presently, in one batch we make just 12 kg of candy, but once the technology is licensed for commercialisation, the production can always be scaled up," Kolambe said.
As per NAU, one banana tree fetches around five kg of central core (nutritive part rich in iron & usable for making edible products). It can help produce three kgs of candy).
Standardised at NAU, the technology is now set to be licensed for commercial application to a private firm in Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, a banana producing state, he said.
The acreage under the horticulture crop in Jalgaon alone is around 48,000 hectares.
As part of National Agriculture Innovation Project (NAIP)- a value chain on utilisation of banana pseudostem for fibre and other value added products - NAU also developed other products like fibre for textile and paper industry and organic liquid fertiliser, from the banana waste.
"The organic liquid fertiliser developed by us from the liquid derived from the banana plant has the potential to reduce usage of chemical fertilisers like DAP, urea, potash by 30 per cent," Kolambe said, adding that its performance was seen good on the mango crop, besides others.
"One hectare of banana cultivation can potentially provide 12,000 to 14,000 litres of organic fertiliser," he said, adding that the technology has been licensed for commercialisation to a firm in Surat and Jalgaon.
The acreage under banana in Gujarat is pegged close to 70,000 hectares. Efforts are underway in the state to reach production levels of 70 tonnes per hectare from the present over 60 tonnes per hectare.