Thursday, April 14, 2016

DA entices Bicol upland farmers into singkamas production during summer
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 13 (PNA) –- Following the successful holding recently of the 1st Singkamas Harvest Festival in Polangui, Albay, the Department of Agriculture (DA) Bicol regional office here is enticing Bicolano farmers into commercial production of the crop during the summer season.

Singkamas or turnip (Pachyrhizus erosus) is an important food crop whose season is but a perfect timing for its thirst-quenching quality during the summer heat, the DA on Wednesday said.

Besides, this root crop provides low calories, making it a perfect substitute meal for people who want to attain a physically fit body without sacrificing the need for energy for performing strenuous activities, it said.

Thus, according to the agency, singkamas, which grows widely on most upland and non-irrigated farms in Bicol, has become a famous dietary alternative, especially for today’s health-conscious and body-conscious generation.

Themed “Grow, Eat and Buy Local—Albayano Resilient,” the 1st Singkamas Harvest Festival that recently celebrated the production success of the two-hectare integrated farm of Ronaldo Cagnayo in Barangay Agos, Polangui, Albay, was attended by about a hundred local farmers as part of their learning of various agricultural technologies being promoted by the DA.

Various local government and agriculture officials graced the affair which, the DA said, served as an eye opener into the economic benefits of singkamas farming that could be availed of too by many Bicolano farmers tilling upland farms and even those in plains or lowland but not irrigated.

Instead of leaving their farms idle during the dry season, farmers of these rainfed lands could make use of it to produce singkamas which is a heat-tolerant, short-term crop, it said.

Cagnayo has been into singkamas production during summer since 2011, using his more than two hectares farm to harvest around 20 sacks per week that he delivers to markets of nearby urban centers -- like Daraga, Albay; Legazpi City; Nabua and Iriga City of Camarines Sur -- from where he generates a seasonal gross earnings of around Php50,000.

Singkamas is indeed a highly saleable summer commodity, given that much like other fruits and vegetables that are not available during summer, it is also known for its dietary fiber, thus, it can sufficiently satisfy hunger without being heavy on the belly.

Commonly eaten raw, singkamas, which provides a cooling effect owing to its great water content, helps in reducing the risk of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

Since over 70 percent of human bodies is made up of water, eating turnips also serves as an alternative or supplement to people undergoing water therapy, the DA said, stressing that the water from this root crop helps to replace the soiled water in human bodies for cleansing, helping organs like pancreas, kidney, stomach and skin to function well.

Studies show that aside from low calorie, dietary fiber and water, singkamas is also an excellent source of anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins.

It is rich in Vitamin C, which is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps in the creation of collagen as well as provides the body forage damaging free radicals for the deterrence of germs, viruses and bacteria -- including destructive oxidation reactions that can cause sickness, inflammation or even cancer.

The same studies reveal that singkamas helps in boosting human body’s natural immune system while it provides other vitamins such as A, and Vitamin B-complex composed of folates, riboflavin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and thiamin.

Citing researches, the DA also said that singkamas could help facilitate healing of a broad range of health issues because of its high nutrient content that includes calcium, phosphorous, folic acid magnesium, niacin, iron, potassium, and sodium which are essential for the overall well being of human body.

Owing to its health benefits, Filipinos have devised different ways of serving singkamas, one of which is lumpiang sariwa (fresh spring roll), a popular side dish and atsara (relish), a mouth-watering native appetizer.

Since cooking singkamas is not advisable because heat could destroy its natural nutrients and minerals, the DA said, the best way to consume it and enjoy its health benefits is through the good old fashion way of cutting the fresh vegetable into bitable pieces and enjoying its natural taste with a pinch of salt, natural vinegar or as it is.

The farmers who attended the festival have been informed of these benefits that could be derived from commercial or even small holding farm production of singkamas and in Polangui and other parts of the third congressional district of Albay down to other areas of the province that are highly agricultural, they vowed to replicate Cagnayo’s good summer agricultural practice, the DA said.

There are already hundreds of farmers using their farms in producing singkamas during the summer season in Albay and the DA regional office wants more areas covered by this practice as the demand for the crop has been consistently growing not only in Bicol but also nationwide.

“As one could observe, truckloads of singkamas are being transported from Albay to Metro Manila and other markets of Luzon during summer and still the volume of current production is small compared to the demand. Hence more production is needed,” the DA said.

In the festival, the farmers were also advised to practice integrated farming like using gabi (taro), string beans, lemon, mushroom, pili, and cacao, among other high-value farm commodities that could be intercropped with coconut, the DA added. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD