General Santos City - The Region -12 office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-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 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, and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan, and Cotabato.
According to Laboy, the business conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC) had been offering production and marketing contracts with the local farmers who want to venture into cassava farming.
He said the DA and the 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.
As this developed, he said they have 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 the DA-12's Agri-Pinoy Corn-Cassava Program.
The participants were also trained in creating various dishes like the Jolly Roll, Yuk Sticks, and sour-sweet cassava for possible additional livelihood ventures, he said.
For his part, 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 added that farmers will have no problem with possible fluctuations of its market prices as the SMC buys fresh cassava at R2.50 per kilo, and dried chips in granulated form at R8.50 a kilo.