LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – More than 1,000 potato growers belonging to the 14 farmers’ association in Benguet and Mountain Province are expected to benefit from a massive government project that aims to make potato production in the highlands a more competitive industry.
The Northern Philippine Root Crops Research and Training Center (NPRCRTC), a research institute under the Benguet State University (BSU), is spearheading a multi-agency effort that seeks to address the plea of potato farmers for an affordable source of quality planting materials to help improve the quality of their produce and provide them with descent income in turn.
According to Cynthia Kiwas, one of the project proponents, the cost of producing quality potatoes here is relatively higher because of the high input cost attributed to expensive seed tubers used by farmers. This results to farmers demanding higher prices for their produce in order to recover their costs.
“The cost of quality potato seed tubers which are either imported or sold by private entities ranges from 80 to 120 pesos per kilo while self-produced seed tubers will only cost the farmer around 18 to 20 pesos per kilo,” said Kiwas. “The savings resulting from self-production of seed tubers can significantly lower production costs. This will in turn result to higher profits for the farmer,” she added.
Potato farmers prefer to purchase seed tubers instead of producing their own because of the lack of skills training and knowledge on the best practices in the production of quality seed tubers. This is the reason why the first phase of the project, which was completed last April, involves the training of the farmers’ representatives. The trainees who were divided into four batches came from the different farmers’ groups that are based in the major potato-growing municipalities of Atok, Buguias and Kibungan in Benguet and Bauko, Besao and Tadian in Mountain Province. Subsequently, the farmers are then required to impart their new knowledge and skills to their fellow farmers in preparation for the second phase of the project.
As part of the tangible component of the project, each of the 14 farmers’ association will be granted a greenhouse together with the necessary tools and farm supplies to begin the second phase of the project which involves the mass propagation of potato planting materials. This second phase is expected to begin in the last quarter of this year. According to Kiwas, around 50 percent of the total P7.57-million budget will go to the construction of the greenhouses which is vital in order to ensure the continuity of the program. The project aims to produce 80,000 kilos of potato seed tubers every year starting this year. The project is jointly funded by the Cordillera office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-CAR) and BSU.
The 14 farmers’ associations identified as beneficiaries are Tulodan Seed Growers Association Incorporated, Botiao Farmers Association, Bonglo-Naynayes Farmers Association, Bosleng Potato Seed Growers Association, Buguias-Japan Agricultural Trainees Association, Bayoyo Farmers Association, Lengaoan Indigenous Farmers Credit Cooperative, Natuo Duguan Bayen Tammangan Botiki Anadong Upper Sebang Farmers Assoc., Bacdangan Community Multipurpose Cooperative, Mount Data Kataguan Womens Association, Soquib Farmers Association, Cadad-anan Pambansang Mag-uuma, Magbubongkal, Magbubukid, Magbabalil ng Pilipinas, Madaymen Good Agricultural Practitioners Association, and PLANTERS (Poy-og, Lebang, Amsalugan, Namayuka, Tagpaya, Ellengan, Riverside, Matikid, Salong).
“We need to help the farmers become more competitive because potato is an important food source that can help reduce our reliance on rice imports. Furthermore, we want our locally grown potatoes to be able to compete, in terms of price, with imported potatoes, especially now that the ASEAN integration will soon be implemented” Kiwas further said.
Kiwas pointed out that locally developed potato varieties like ‘solibao’, ‘raniag’ and ‘igorota’ are comparable to foreign potato varieties.
Potato is considered a high-value, rice substitute crop in the Philippines. Around 80 percent of the total potato output of the Philippines is produced in the provinces of Benguet and Mountain Province. By KEVIN PHILIP D. GAYAO