Manila: Bread is an acquired taste for Filipinos, whose tropical islands grow rice in abundance, but not wheat.
Now the huge jump in the global prices of wheat, a cereal grown in temperate climes, has led Philippine authorities to push for coconut flour-based “pandesal”, a popular local bread roll.
Over the past year, wheat prices have shot up astronomically as wheat prices increased by up to 165 per cent, a record.
The bulk of the increase came after February 2022, and wheat prices hit an all-time high on May 17, 2022, according to Trading Economics.
The current price of wheat as of June 30, 2022 is $9.2710 per bushel.
Local prices of coconut flour, meanwhile, ranges from Php42 per kilogram for ordinary cocoflour to Php170 for the organic version.
What is pandesal?
Pandesal — literally “salt bread” — is a wheat flour-based bread roll popular in the Philippines, served as a snack known as "merienda".
But the Philippines, a major wheat-importing country, currently reels from higher inflation rates due to dramatic price increases in global food grain markets and fuel, pushing inflation up and the country's central bank to raise policy rates.
Behind the push for coco pandesal are the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), alongside the Agriculture Department.
Local bakers have also made their move, as members of the Philippine Baking Industry Group have joined the cocoflour drive. A pack of coco pandesal is available at certain French Baker and PureGold supermarket outlets for Php23.50.
According to Healthline, coconut flour is a gluten-free flour made solely from coconuts, high in fibre and is a good source of protein. Coconut flour is also seen helping improve digestion due to its high fibre content.
It is significantly higher in fiber than wheat flour and contains both soluble and insoluble fibre. In general, foods high in fiber promote good digestion and the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
The Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) is also considering the replacing wheat flour with flour made from banana, taro, cassava and sweet potato.
The institute, alongside the Department of Agriculture, Philippine Coconut Authority, VCO Philippines, and the bakers’ group are behind the coco-pandesal push.
The agency has also launched the sweet potato enhanced nutribun, or “e-nutribun”, using sweet potato as the main ingredient.