25 years of organic farming and processing
25 years of organic farming and processing
White beaches, turquoise-coloured water and coconut palms – This is a description of the tropical island country of Sri Lanka, the location where we are promoting organic farming of coconuts and other tropical fruits. MorgenLand Sri Lanka (Tropical Health Food) is based in Kurunegala in the north west of Sri Lanka, and is an organic pioneer which has been involved with the cultivation of organic products for 25 years. Its main products today include pineapple and coconut.
Its 90 employee-strong processing facility puts particular emphasis on good working conditions and the highest level of safety and hygiene standards. This is also attested to by the fact that the company has already been given the Best Enterprise Award twice in succession. Alongside the visionary direction of the company, environmental protection and social factors are also included in the evaluation criteria for this award.
263 contract farmers grow mixed crops, including pineapple and coconuts, using traditional methods on an area of more than 2000 ha. The cultivatable areas of land are regularly checked both at an internal level by our own agricultural engineers and externally by the organic inspection body Control Union.
The harvest and the transport of the goods is overseen and logged by project workers. Since the harvested pineapple and coconuts are transported on separate loading platforms directly to the processing facility, it can be ensured that they are not mixed with non-organic products and their production can be traced right the way back to the grower. Farmers are paid directly and around 15 to 20% more than the standard market price. This project has given the growers involved the security of self-sufficiency for over two decades.
We place high value on quality throughout the entire production process from the farmers to product delivery. For this reason, our project is also certified in accordance with the quality management standard ISO 22000:2005. The use of organic products, which are produced without chemical and synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, the numerous quality control procedures during and after production,and continuous production guarantee a natural organic product which is produced using the fastest and shortest processes. The fact that we have collaborated with growers and local staff for many years is a testament to our fair dealings and sustainable business relationship with them.
The “Mauritius” pineapple variety is available in Sri Lanka for the whole year, whereby peak season runs from April until July. There are well over 100 pineapple varieties which are divided into 5 variety groups. The fruits of the “Mauritius” variety only weigh around 1kg when fully grown and are characterised by their sweet-and-sour taste and golden yellow colour.
The pineapples are cultivated in mixed crops on plantations. It takes between 15 – 18 months after planting before the first pineapples can be harvested, and the next harvest can then be carried out 6 months after this. After 3 years the pineapple plant is replaced by new plants.
As the fruits don’t ripen at the same rate, the pineapple crop must be checked by plantation workers on a daily basis for harvesting purposes. Only the fruits which are ripe enough for subsequent processing are harvested. The ripe pineapples are ordered so that they can be immediately processed further without delay.
Before the pineapples are processed, the fruits are firstly sorted according to level of ripeness and weighed. All pineapples are then washed, peeled and the wood pieces and inflorescences completely removed. Afterwards, a decision is made regarding their further processing into
After cutting, the pieces or slices are sorted by appearance and fed into an automatic filling machine. Here, they are filled in glass jars which are then sealed and pasteurised. After an incubation period of 10 days, the fruits in the glass jars can be shipped to Germany. Upon arrival, they undergo a final quality check and are labelled.
The pineapple pieces/slices are arranged on sheets and then dried in special drying ovens using hot air at around 60°C. They are then packed in boxes and delivered to Germany as quickly as possible. Once they have arrived there, they are subject to an incoming inspection and are packed into bags just-in-time. Completely ripened fruits, which are especially sweet and aromatic, are preferentially harvested and used. The drying process results in a naturally high level of sweetness and a slightly dark colouring. By contrast, unripe fruit produces more brightly coloured dried fruit which is less sweet and aromatic.
Sri Lanka is one of the main cultivation areas of coconut palms, which reach an impressive size of 20 – 30m and can bear approx 90 coconuts per year depending on their age. It takes between 12 and 15 months for coconuts to ripen. With their shells, they can reach a weight of up to 2.5kg, the actual nut however only weighs between 0.5 and 1kg.
The coconuts can be harvested every two months, and up to 20 nuts per palm can be harvested. The main harvesting season, however, is usually between April and September. The harvest volumes are determined in line with production capacities so that interim storage is not necessary. The exterior shell of the coconut is already removed on the plantation. It is primarily used for the natural fertilisation of the plantations, but also to produce ropes or doormats. The coconuts, which are typically characterised by their brown fibrous appearance, are transferred to the processing facility for further processing.
Here, the coconut is divided into two halves very early in the morning when temperatures are still low. The coconut water is collected and the white core is carefully separated from the thin brown layer which still surrounds it. The white core is then washed and further processed to produce various end products.
After the hard shell has been opened, the coconut water contained in the coconuts is collected in a sterile vacuum tank. Before aseptic filling in ready-to-drink drinks cartons, the coconut water is briefly heated to 140ºC. MorgenLand coconut water has no added sugar and no added flavourings: Its light aromatic sweetness comes solely from the ripe coconuts.
The fruit pulp is chopped up and pressed in an electric press to produce coconut milk. Depending on the required amount of fat, the resulting liquid from this is then mixed in a large cooled tank with a defined amount of water, and then pasteurised for one minute. It is then filled in cans which have been steam-cleaned in advance. After being sealed by the machine, the filled coconut milk is sterilised at a temperature of 125°C for 30 minutes, and shipped after a break of two weeks.
For coconut oil, the coconut flesh of freshly harvested and healthy coconuts is chopped up, dried at a maximum of 50ºC, cold-pressed without any additives and then filtered. Coconut oil only turns into liquid at 24-26ºC, and therefore at room temperature is solid and has a white colour. The press cake which has resulted during production is ground up into high fibre coconut flour.
The coconut cream is obtained from the coconuts’ fruit pulp, which is chopped up and dried at 102°C. A grinding process is then carried out at high pressure until coconut cream with a firm consistency results.
For the production of coconut flakes, the white fruit pulp is sliced by machine into pieces resembling slices, while for dessicated coconut it is finely shredded. After both have been processed by belt drying equipment at a hot air temperature of 90°C, they are packed in 25kg bags and start their journey to Germany.
Papaya bushes and banana trees are also grown by our organic farmers on the plantations, and the fruit from these is also harvested when fully ripe and processed to produce dried fruit.