Tuesday, October 27, 2015

DA-Bicol sees cassava industry a vibrant one for CamSur
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Oct. 26 (PNA) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) sees Cassava, one of Camarines Sur’s top crops, as a vibrant industry that the province is developing via the foreign-funded Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP).

The province is working on the finalization of its cassava-focused Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP) -- a product of the value-chain analysis and interventions focused on the identified commodity as a requirement for fund allocation from the PRDP.

Once approved by the PRDP’s Project Support Office, the fund will directly be released to the provincial government.

The PRDP is a foreign-funded program being implemented by DA as a platform for a modern and climate smart agriculture in the region and other parts of the country.

Its national implementation carries a Php27.535-billion total fund, consisting of Php20.553 billion loan from the World Bank, Php3.579 billion as national government counterpart, Php3.118 billion equity of the local government units and Php287-million grant from the Global Environment Facility.

It involves 80 provincial local government units (PLGUs) and agri-fishery stakeholders nationwide in an attempt to realize the goals of improved food security and increased incomes, climate resiliency and enhanced environmental policies and governance.

In six years (2013-2019), the project aims to raise annual real farm incomes of household beneficiaries by five percent, increase the value of annual marketed output by seven percent and ensure that 20-percent more farmers and fishers benefit from DA services.

Records of the DA regional office for Bicol based here show that in 2014, Camarines Sur -- the largest in terms of population, land area and agricultural economy among the region’s six provinces -- produced 76,518.51 metric tons of cassava, making it the top producer regionwide.

At least 48 percent of cassava tubers produced in the province is being sold to livestock feed processors, 19 percent to traders, 14 percent goes to food processors and the rest is used for home-based food processing, family consumption and animal feeds.

The same DA records say that Camarines Sur has around 20,000 hectares of land devoted to the crop, providing livelihood to over 21,000 farmers.

The province contributes five percent to the country’s total cassava output, putting it within the top eight producing provinces in the Philippines of the crop which plays an important role in food security, equity and poverty alleviation of the nation.

DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas on Monday said his agency is helping the Camarines Sur’s Provincial Project Management and Implementation Unit (PPMIU) in the finalization of its PCIP that defines cassava’s importance as a food and cash crop, traceable to its numerous food and non-food uses.

Being rich in starch, cassava can be processed into flour and can be used as main ingredient for various food products such as cakes, pudding, chips and noodles.

It is also rich in glucose and fructose, making it an effective sweetener in manufacturing beverages, candies, and pastries.

To tap these potentials and promote the development of cassava as a vibrant industry, the PPMIU is working closely with the DA and the PRDP as it readies the PCIP with focus on value addition and production enhancement as well as demand and per capita consumption projections, according to Bragas.

In this PCIP, cassava’s gross value of two percent added in the province’s agriculture should be improved significantly, given the wide potentials through more government support by way of timely and vigorous interventions so that its capacity to contribute more to the development of food security and poverty alleviation is maximized, Bragas said.

PRDP-PSO planning specialist Rey Lara said that having a quality PCIP that is responsive to the needs of the province can be an effective tool for a vibrant cassava industry in Camarines Sur.

Production enhancement will involve quality planting materials, mechanized land preparations, sufficient fertilizers, post-harvest facilities, proper product handling and more knowledge in plant care that should be provided to farmers.

Engineer Danilo Aman, the DA regional cassava program coordinator, said local industry stakeholders have also agreed to develop linkage network among farmers through associations, organizations and private companies to address the limited supply of planting materials during planting season.

The establishment of five commercial nurseries of high-yielding varieties of cassava across the province is also being considered while Farmer Field School on integrated pest management , good agricultural practices and modern farming techniques were also proposed to address low productivity owing to the use of traditional production practices and varieties.

As a proactive measure against the threat of Witches’ Broom Disease through the conduct of information dissemination on the symptoms and control as well as the strict implementation of the Plant Quarantine Law is also being considered.

The PPMIU has also identified potential areas for organic certification and intensified campaign for organic cassava production as it pushes on the establishment of a processing plant that is compliant to the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system and food standards.

The demand, on the other hand, is given based on prevailing statistics which say, among others, that around 190,000 metric tons (MTs) of cassava each year are utilized as feeds; over 30,000 MTs of dried cassava chips are traded annually for domestic feed formulation.

Major commercial feed brands in the country are now using cassava meal and volume utilized for feeds increased steadily in the past five years due to chronic shortage of domestic corn—the traditional source of energy in formulated feeds.

Still on demand, the starch industry represents 20 percent of cassava utilization in the country or larger by 15 percent over feed utilization, Bragas said.

Besides, reports have it that La Tondeña Distillers Inc. has turned into cassava as alternative raw material for alcohol and this private company is targeting a supply equivalent to some 30,000 hectares of plantation for the purpose.

The production of glucose syrup from cassava starch is also being considered as recent studies abroad have discovered that using microfluidization has an effect on the structure and thermal properties of cassava starch-water suspension—a discovery that has many application potentials in the food and drug industry.

The energy-efficient production of fuel ethanol though fixed-bed absorption by use of cassava absorbent is one of the focuses of the study, according to the Department of Science and Technology, which explained that cassava absorbent is desiccated to absorb the water in the ethanol, making its quality score to as much as 99.5 percent.

On per capita consumption, 75 percent of cassava produced in the country is used as food so that between 2011 and 2020, it projected to be at 9.36 and the food demand growth rate is seen at 2.24 percent annually until 2020. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD