Cassava had been considered as rich in carbohydrates and protein making a viable source for animal feeds. Cassava roots are processed into chips and pellets forms as main ingredients in formulating animal feeds.
“Although the offer would be a big boost to our cooperative as well as to cassava farmers, lack of adequate post harvest facility constrained our capacity to keep up with the quality and volume requirements,” Oso said.
“Feed processors only buy good quality chips with a moisture content of not more than 14 percent. Fresh cassava roots contain roughly 65 percent water and removing this would require a lot of time and effort. This makes drying crucial in meeting the quality required by the buyers,” he stressed.
“Time is another important concern since cassava is a perishable crop and need to be processed within 48 hours after harvest to avoid spoilage. Manual chipping alone would take a lot of time and energy. So aside from drying facility we also need chipping machine and other equipment to enhance our product but it entails huge capital investment,” he said.
Into the big-ticket
Their opportunity came when the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP) expanded the coverage of its livelihood portfolio from to P250, 000 to a maximum of P5 million. MRDP is a special project under the Department of Agriculture jointly funded by the World Bank, the national and local government units.
Through MRDP’s Community Fund for Agricultural Development (CFAD) big -ticket projects, the SJMPC was able to access P3.5 million for their proposed Upgrading of Cassava Postharvest Facility project.
The said amount was used to buy postharvest facilities such as flatbed dryer, chipper, and granulator. Solar dryer and processing center was also established including necessary logistical support such as motorcycle cab for hauling of cassava roots in remote areas and the truck scale, which facilitates convenient and faster scaling of delivery raw materials.
“The assistance we have availed ourselves of from MRDP has improved the efficiency of our cooperative especially in improving the quality and reliability of our products,” Oso said adding:
“It has boosted our confidence to meet the required quality and volume of our cassava chips and pellets products paving the way for our cooperative to forge a marketing agreement with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) – one of the country’s leading animal feeds processors.”
The SMC processing plant in Gen. Santos City required the SJMPC to supply them at least 1,500 tons of cassava chips and pellets for one year. While before they could hardly meet the said volume, the postharvest facility has enabled their cooperative to supply SMC in just within six months.
“SMC has again given us another purchase order of the amount for the second half of this year,” Oso quipped.
The marketing opportunity offered by SMC did not only boost the cooperative’s financial standing it has also improved the income of cassava farmers as it assured them of a ready market for their produce.
On a one-hectare cassava plantation, a farmer can harvest at least 50 tons of roots and if sold at P2.50 per kilo, he can have gross earning of P125, 000. Production cost can usually reach up to P15, 000 per hectare giving the farmer of at least P110,000 net income in 11-13 months.
Aside from marketing of cassava chips, SJMPC is also earning from the truck scale being the sole large-scale weighing facility in the area. It does not only caters to the cassava suppliers but also other farmers’ products such as rice, corn, and livestock.
“We have included the truck-scale in our upgrading project as this is essential in facilitating faster and honest-to-goodness transaction with our farmer-suppliers,” Oso said.
Banga Mayor Henry Ladot while expressing his continued support to SJMPC also thanked DA Region 12 Office and MRDP for enhancing the capability of their farmers to manage a profitable enterprise.
“Cassava is a major crop among smallholder farmers in our town and only through this CFAD project that it has given a big boost. The development of cassava as an enterprise will surely make a significant contribution to our local economy,” he said.
MRDP program director Lealyn A. Ramos lauded the SJMPC, the local officials, and the private sector particularly the SMC for offering marketing opportunity to cassava farmers.
“Cassava used to be considered a poor man’s crop is now enjoying a better value chain where farmers are assured of its markets and at same time processors can expect better quality and reliable supply,” Ramos said.
“We are currently working into strengthening commodity value chain to develop viable rural enterprise. The cassava processing project in Banga is one concrete example that farmers are capable of not only in producing but also in developing marketable products,” she added.