Excess supplies of bananas will no longer be turned into pig feed, but will instead be used to produce fiber-rich, low-calorie starch for export to Japan, a farmers’ cooperative in Pingtung County said.
Farmers will start production of resistant starch from green bananas later this year, it said.
The new business should help solve the persistent problem of a banana glut because of bumper harvests, Pingtung Yunghsin Fruit and Vegetable Distribution Cooperative chairman Chiu Yung-feng (邱永豐) said.
The sale of fresh bananas can be so slow, especially during summer, that the government would buy the fruit dirt cheap and use it as pig feed, Chiu said.
After repeated experiments, the cooperative has become the first manufacturer of resistant starch made from green bananas in the nation, he said.
Mass production is scheduled to begin in May after a NT$4 million (US$134,000) plant is completed.
The cooperative recently signed a contract with a Japanese importer to provide about 20 tonnes of starch before the end of this year, and between 60 tonnes and 100 tonnes next year, he said.
The price per tonne is NT$300 to NT$400, depending on the purchase price of green bananas at the time.
It takes nearly 20kg of bananas to make 1kg 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, Chiu said.
Unlike other carbohydrates such as sugar and most starches, resistant starch is not entirely broken down by the body, but 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.