DA-12 pushes for bigger cassava prod’n areas

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 April) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 12 is pushing for the expansion of cassava production areas in the region as market opportunities for the crop remain high.

Edgar Laboy, DA-12’s cassava focal person, said Tuesday they presently consider cassava production as among the most viable alternative ventures for farmers in the region due to its increasing demand and stable market prices.

Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato as well as the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Laboy said business conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has been offering production and marketing contracts with local farmers who wants to venture into cassava farming.

He said DA and SMC are jointly promoting the massive production of fresh yellow cassava, which is ideal for food production as well as ingredient for bio-ethanol alcohol formulations.

In line with this, he said they launched a training program on cassava production for farmers in South Cotabato, which was earlier identified as among the areas that were highly-suitable for the crop.

He said the training, which focused on the utilization of postharvest facilities and processing technologies for cassava, is facilitated by DA-12’s Agri-Pinoy Corn-Cassava Program.

The participants were also trained in creating dishes like Jolly Roll, Yuk Sticks, and sour-sweet cassava for possible additional livelihood ventures, he said.

Ben Brasales, SMC area coordinator, said that they are buying cassava for processing into animal feeds, alcohol and food products.

“SMC prefers to use cassava as substitute ingredient or raw material because of its lower cost. It is not economically viable to import the crop and besides. our farmers have enough capacity to produce them,” he said.

Studies showed that cassava is considered as a viable field crop due to its capability to survive drastic climatic changes, especially dry spells or drought, he said.

Brasales said farmers will have no problem with possible fluctuations of its market prices as SMC buys fresh cassava at P2.50 per kilo and dried-chips in granulated form at P8.50 a kilo.

At present, Brasales said there is a huge demand for the crop in the markets as SMC alone needs around 500,000 metric tons (MT) annually for its animal feed production.

He said they expect the market prices and demand for the crop to continually increase in the coming years.

“As long as we eat chicken meat, eggs and processed food products or drink beer, there will always be a high demand for cassava,” he said.

Data from DA-12’s Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division showed that the region’s cassava production reached 60,000 MT in 2011 and increased to 80,000 MT last year.

The crop’s production areas are located in parts of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)