FPRDI trains farmers on Manila elemi production PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 October 2010 15:39

LEGAZPI CITY – Still unknown to many Bicolano farmers, pili (Canarium ovatum) trees bearing the region’s “signature nut” and fast emerging as another “tree of life” next to coconut, gives out a valuable resin known as Manila elemi.

Tree of life because all parts of the pili tree are used by man. The kernel, when roasted and ground is used as ingredient for ice cream, salads, puddings, cake toppings, bread, pastries, confectioneries and other delicacies like marzipan, fruit-cereal bar and chocolate candy.

Rich in magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, ascorbic acid, riboflavin, zinc, copper, iron, sodium, thiamine and niacin, it can be eaten raw, or roasted. The nut is also sold in sugar-coated version.

The pulp is also pickled or cooked as a vegetable dish. Processed, the pulp yields edible oil. It is also a nutritious feed for cattle and swine.

The shell is used in handicrafts or for charcoal, firewood and as medium for growing orchids and anthuriums. The leaves are used for salads and as relish.

The trunk is an ideal material for quality furniture, wood panels and doors. As a resin-rich wood, it is good for firewood, while the tree sap is an abundant source of natural resins and essential oils.

Resin or manila elemi has long been used by our ancestors for torches and starting fires. Locally known as “salong, sahing, pulot or pilit” pili resin has many uses.

One of the important uses of resin is the oil extracted known as limonene used in the manufacture of scents and air fresheners. Limonene can be made available by extracting the oil from Manila elemi.

The oil produced is one of the most inexpensive perfume components. It can be used in scented products like stationeries, tissue papers, ballpen inks, coatings, candles, cosmetics and even on insecticides.

Other uses include components for oil and spirit varnishes and paint, gives toughness and elasticity to pharmaceutical products such as plaster, printing inks, lithographic works and perfumery, caulking material for boats, for dressing of transmission belts and conveyors.

Records of the Department of Agriculture (DA) indicate that for many years, the Philippines had been exporting the resin Brea or Manila elimi, to the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Cuba, China, Hong Kong and Japan.

The name “elemi”, according to DA records, is a term applied to a variety of resinous products obtained from different countries and having different botanical origins. There appears, however, to be little doubt that the species concerned all belong to the family Burseraceae.

The greater part of the world’s supply is derived from the Philippines, and is known as Manila elemi. It is obtained from the trunk of Canarium luzonicum and is known locally by the Spanish term “brea blanca” (white pitch).

Brea of the best quality is soft, sticky, opaque, and slightly yellow, has a very agreeable resinous odor, and burns with a smoky flame. It is used locally as a varnish, for caulking boats, and for torches.

Manila elemi is exported from the Philippines in considerable quantities. Some of the resins shaped from Manila to Europe for use in preparing medicinal ointments and, to smaller extent, in the manufacture of varnish, while much of the product is sent to China and there used for making transparent paper for windowpanes, in place of glass.

The records also said that Manila elemi contains phellandrene, dipentene, d-limonene, terpinene, terpinolene, terpene, sesquiterpene alcohol, elemecin, trimethyl homogallic aldehyde, trimethyl homogallic acid, and pinene.

The roots contain 7.8 per cent of tannin. The seed (kernel) has a fixed oil, canariol, with triolein 51 per cent, tristearin 12 per cent, trimyristin 37 per cent, laurin; protein 12.24 per cent; fat 56.12 to 65.73 percent; etc.

The bark of this species contains 7.8 per cent of tannin and gives a satisfactory leather, which is yellowish tan, with firm texture and good grain, it said.

The “sahing” (oleoresin) is used in the Philippines as a stimulant, a rubefacient and an antirheumatic when applied externally. Poultices of brea are used externally for swellings of the legs; the brea, metted, is used externally as a stomachic, a sudorific and a sudorific and a cough remedy.

But despite the fact that around a million pili trees grow in over 7,000 hectares of land in the six Bicol provinces, no noticeable resin harvesting enterprise had risen in the region.

It is at this point that the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in an effort to help Bicol farmers and pili growers start a sustainable industry launched three years ago a project teaching them the correct way of extracting resin from pili trees.

Since 2007, about 600 people have already been trained in the provinces of Sorsogon, Albay, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes by FPRDI forest technicians with a resin extraction system developed from field experiments, DOST regional director for Bicol Tomas Briñas said here Tuesday.

The system involves correct length, depth and width of the tapping cut on the trunk of a pili tree as well as the right amount of chemical stimulant to use and the best time to re-tap, according to Briñas.

Resin extraction tapping must be done the right way to make sure that the pili trees are not harmed and their yields are sustained. Overtapping, deep tapping and frequent re-chipping can damage and eventually kill the trees, he said.

With this initiative of the FPRDI, the DOST regional chief expressed optimism on the potential of Manila elimi industry rising in Bicol. “I think it will not take very long before we see a strong resin industry established in the region, especially with the support being given to the pili industry by both the government and non-government sectors.”