Although jackfruit holds the position of being the national fruit of Bangladesh, not all everyone is aware of its nutritional value and versatility as a food.
A recent statement made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina regarding raw jackfruit being a potential meat substitute may have raised some eyebrows among netizens across the country, but it is a fact that not many people are familiar with.
In Bangladesh, jackfruits are typically consumed only when they are ripe and sweet. The issue arises when the fruit ripens during a season when many other fruits are also in their ripe stage, resulting in a large amount of wastage. According to officials, this leads to a loss of Tk500 crore every year.
Ensuring the diversified use of ripe and unripe jackfruit can not only prevent financial loss but also newly introduce this fruit as a “superfood” that meets the country’s nutritional needs throughout the year.
What other foods can be prepared from jackfruits?
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute has already taken steps to prepare other food from jackfruit. They are the first ones to introduce these products in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute has prepared delicious items including jackfruit jam, pickles, chips, cutlets, ice cream, yogurt, ready-to-cook meat (meat alternative) dishes, jackfruit powders, and many other packaged products.
The products are available in various supermarkets and retail markets of the country.
Research to prevent jackfruits from going to waste
To ensure the multiple uses of jackfruit and prevent its waste, from 2019 to 2022, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, in collaboration with NewVision Solutions Limited, conducted a three-year research program titled “Jackfruit Postharvest Loss Reduction and Marketing Strategy”.
Dr Golam Ferdous Chowdhury, a senior scientist in the Post-Harvest Technology Division of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, led this research project.
Some 700-800 people were also trained in the production to marketing process under the project by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute
These people are currently producing various products from jackfruit. Besides that, the institute is giving free training to interested people.
Dr Golam Ferdous Chowdhury told Dhaka Tribune that although they started researching four products – jackfruit chips, pickles, fresh cuts and dried products within the project, they now see jackfruit as a resource for more than 30 products.
He also mentioned that the demand for fresh-cut jackfruit, or raw jackfruit, is more than for other jackfruit products in the market.
Farmers also gain a lot from this, as usually a jackfruit can be sold for Tk60-70, whereas fresh-cut jackfruits can be sold for Tk200-250.
Besides, raw jackfruit vegetable rolls, cutlets, shingara, and other food items are also being prepared in the market currently.
On the other hand, ripe jackfruit juice is being used to make ice cream or cake and fruit rollups.
Lack of investment hinders growth
Dr Golam Ferdous Chowdhury mentioned that despite having ample potential for economic opportunities and sustainability, this sector is facing a market loss.
He said a drop in investment is the main reason behind this.
“Most of the entrepreneurs who are producing various products from jackfruit in our country are doing business with small capital. However, there is a high demand for jackfruit products in both the domestic and international markets. Hence to capture the export market, investment is needed in this sector,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Dr Chowdhury added: “Furthermore, as these entrepreneurs have less capital, they are not able to spend much on packets. As a result, many people are losing interest in this sector.”
“Moreover, If the entrepreneurs do not have BCTI approval to supply products to super shops, they are facing obstacles. The cost of BCTI approval is also difficult for these entrepreneurs”, said Dr Golam Ferdous Chowdhury.
The researcher also recommended that the government launch a campaign to raise awareness about the nutritional value of products made from jackfruits.
Nutritional value of jackfruits
Regarding the nutritional benefits of jackfruit, the researcher said: “Jackfruit contains a high amount of protein, sugar, and various vitamins that are essential for the human body. For every 100 grams of ripe jackfruit, 1.8 grams of protein can be found, while 206 grams can be found in unripe jackfruit, and 6.6 grams can be found in jackfruit seeds.”
He added that unripe jackfruit is effective in alleviating diseases and increasing the body’s disease resistance.
“It also helps fight cancer. It contains a large number of minerals that help strengthen bones and regulate blood sugar levels. The fruit also contains powerful antioxidants that protect our bodies from harmful free radicals. In addition, it also protects against colds and coughs. Jackfruit has phytonutrients that are capable of preventing ulcers, and high blood pressure, and work for anti-aging,” Dr Chowdhury noted.
“Jackfruit also contains iron, which helps to increase blood circulation in the body and also helps to relieve constipation,” he added.
Ordinary chips fried in oil contain cancerous ingredients, but jackfruit chips do not. “It is very healthy. Apart from this, the juice of jackfruit powder and bread made by mixing this powder with flour is also very beneficial for diabetic patients,” the official said.
According to Dr Chowdhury, processed food products made from jackfruit are widely consumed in several South Asian countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and many European countries.
He expects that focusing on exporting jackfruit products to these countries could significantly contribute to the country’s economy by adding a substantial amount of foreign currency.
The researcher noted that the Ministry of Commerce has included jackfruit as one of the four fruits selected for the Road to Connectivity Project-1.
He expressed gratitude towards the ministry for their efforts in promoting jackfruit as an entrepreneurial opportunity for women.
Furthermore, Dr Chowdhury encouraged other public and private organizations and ministries to take an interest in this lucrative sector.