Cassava production in the Philippines has been lagging behind prioritized agricultural crops such as rice and corn. The reason behind this is that these staple food crops will greatly help the country meet its target of food self-sufficiency by 2013 under the Aquino Administration unlike cassava. But the irony is that this root crop has the highest potential to combat malnourishment as it has the highest content of carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals compared with other crops. Its other potentials are being studied by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) for future developments in other industries. Currently, cassava is being widely used by local feeds manufacturers as raw material for animal feeds. One major company utilizing this as its flagship crop is San Miguel Corporation (SMC). Despite this, cassava production is slacking behind other agricultural crops due to its major setbacks.
The San Jose Multi-purpose Cooperative (SJMC) established in South Cotabato, a province located in the SOCCSKSARGEN region, gives numerous incentives and benefits to cassava farmers to increase their yield. It buys produce from farmers at a higher price in order to address poor pricing policies. Traders usually buy cassava produce at a cheaper price leaving farmers with short profits. The cooperative also provides capital to local farmers and manufacturers in order to boost production. Because the root crop is highly perishable, postharvest losses remain high. The cooperative was able to tap the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP) community fund of P3.5 million to buy and upgrade existing cassava postharvest facilities and machineries. Because of these opportunities spearheaded by the SJMC, the volume of cassava produce particularly cassava chips used in feeds manufacturing, has greatly increased heavily due to efficient production. The cooperative then tied-up with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) in a marketing agreement towards producing cassava chips and pellets for animal feeds manufacturing. This opportunity will boost the income of cassava farmers in the region as it assures them of a buyer of their produce at a profitable price.
Mindanao has the highest share of 57% in cassava production in the Philippines. The cooperatives together with assistance funds given to local farmers give opportunities and incentives to boost productivity in the region. With ongoing research and studies on the potential of the rootcrop and government support, there is a high possibility of adopting the cassava farming as a lucrative enterprise nationwide.
Bamba, John Ray