Thursday, March 04, 2010

Old Sagay’s nata pickles a hit

By Vishia Mae Dominic J. Tolcidas
Regional Applied Communications

Nata pickles, probably the first of its kind, is becoming popular in a fishing village of Sagay City, north of Negros Occidental. Locally known as atsara, the recipe is a new version of the Filipino pickled green papaya that has nata de coco trimmings instead of the usual shredded or julienned raw papaya.

The special atsara labeled Negrosanon’s Best is sourced from nata de coco produced by Negrosanon for Economic Development Multipurpose Cooperative (NEEDMPC) in Barangay Old Sagay in Sagay City.

Lucia Miñoza, NEEDMPC’s founder-manager, said the nata pickles is cooked the usual way with vinegar, sugar, carrots, ampalaya, eggplant, string beans, sweet pepper, salt, and ginger.

Together with fellow coop members, Miñoza developed the recipe early this year. Instead of discarding nata trimmings, they used them for pickles to maximize the use of the raw material. They thought of the novel idea to provide livelihood to housewives and rural women. Miñoza said the initiative helps boost the women’s self-esteem and make them rather productive in the household and the community.

In fact, nata pickles are not only healthy but also saleable because of its deliciously sour taste with some sweetness from nata. While a small plastic cup sells at P5, just fit for the schoolchildren’s budget, a bigger pack costs 10 pesos; a bottle P20; and jar P35. Nata pickles is served solo or paired with lechon baboy or lechon manok, fish, sausage and other grilled meat.

According to NEEDMPC Chairperson Myrna Dañas, the coop has entered into a contract with Green Harvest, a big nata de coco producer based in Murcia town. Despite Green Harvest’s high demand for the product in December and January, the coop was able to supply 160 kilos at 15 pesos per kilo.

To expand this venture and to make the product more saleable in the market, the coop requested technical and financial assistance on packaging from the Department of Science and Technology, through the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP).

In September 2009 the coop started nata production on P25,000 capital. “A return of our investment came three months after, through the big orders of Green Harvest, sales orders for fiestas and exhibits, and the brisk sales of nata pickles, Dañas added.

NEEDMPC acknowledges the support of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) Negros Occidental for the livelihood training conducted by Nata de Coco Specialist Jusie Balinas. This training was made in coordination with Aquacultural Technologist Susan Apud and Provincial Fishery Livelihood Project Coordinator Elmer Tubola.

Aside from nata, NEEDMPC’s current activities and programs include rice trading and mushroom culture.

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