MEXICO CITY (Jan. 14)
Something new has been added to Mexican tortillas. The something is a special protein enriched flour developed in Israel. According to an article by Laurie Kassman Garcia in “R and D Mexico,” an official publication of Mexico’s Council of Science and Technology, published in Washington, D.C., the unique process was engineered by Milouot, a kibbutz near Haifa, and has been introduced into Mexico through an exclusive contract to produce protein-rich flour and refined cooking oil from cottonseeds.
The discovery is seen as a major breakthrough in efforts by Mexican officials to increase the protein and nutritive contents of the diet of the country’s 67 million inhabitants, most of whom eat an average of 12 tortillas a day.
For almost 40 years experiments have been conducted around the globe, particularly in the United States, trying to salvage that part of the cotton plant not used for fibers.
In 1973, Israeli scientists advanced experimentation to full-scale industrial production, manufacturing enriched flour and cooking oil. Nafinsa, the Mexican National Development Bank, sent representatives to Israel to investigate the possibility of bringing Israeli technology to Mexico.
A VERY APPEALING DEVELOPMENT
“The idea of extracting multiple benefits from a single plant which grows abundantly here in Mexico and at the same time diversifying the country’s sources of nutrients was very appealing to us and to the National Food Development Program established by the government,’ said Antonio Aguirre Quintana, Nafinsa’s project manager for the cottonseed operation.
Using the Israeli technology, Nafinsa experts estimate that the enriched tortillas will increase the average Mexican’s protein intake by at least six percent.
Sonora cotton farmers and the state government are very interested in the Israeli process. Fomin, the National Industrial Development Fund, offered assistance. And Nafinsa, as middleman, negotiated the investment agreement with the kibbutz enterprise, Milouot Haifa Bay Settlements Development Co., Ltd.
The 10-year contract calls for Israeli transfer of the technology and assistance from Israeli technicians in research update. Milouot, in return, receive royalties from the sale of cottonseed to the newly formed company, Proteimex.
The plant will be located in San Luis, Rio Colorado, in Sonora, The $15.2 million project has been financed by three investor groups; Fomin and Milouot each provided 13 percent. The remaining investment comes from the Sonora state government and a farmers’ cooperative.
Proteimex will maintain its own research and development department with personnel trained and assisted by Israeli technicians, to update processing and experiment with new uses for the high protein flour The market is unlimited, Aguirre noted. Israelis have already found that additional processing can prepare the flour as a medium for growing bacteria in the fermentation stages of antibiotics such as penicillin.