Once treated as an under-valued crop, farmers are taking notice of cassava as a valuable cash crop.
And given the right technology, cassava can be grown more profitably compared with traditional crops like rice and corn. Proof of that is in the success of the Ifugao Tapioca Growers Association (ITGA) in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao, which currently has 100 hectares planted to the crop.
“Cassava offers better income compared to corn,” said Cyri Cattiling, president of ITGA.
He said he and his fellow farmers used to grow corn but shifted to cassava because the latter is more profitable to grow. One hectare planted to corn used to earn him P25,000 per cropping with two croppings possible in a year.
On the other hand, one hectare planted to cassava generates him revenues of P130,000 per one cropping with P30,000 capital. Clearly, cassava earns him more even if it can only be planted and harvested once a year.
In Isabela province, 3,000 hectares of former cornfields are now planted to cassava in addition to 1,000 hectares of new lands devoted to the crop. The Isabela farmers shifted to corn from cassava because of water shortages.
Cassava that is newly harvested also does not rot like corn because the root crop does not have natural oils.
The cassava farmers in Ifugao and Isabela also use a cassava digger designed by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), an agency under the Department of Agriculture, for more efficient operations.
With manual labor using shovels and other small farm tool, it takes 30 laborers two to three days to harvest cassava from one hectare.
With the cassava digger, which is attached to a farm tractor, it only takes four hours to harvest cassava with much less labor.
“With a cassava digger, 15 laborers is all we need to harvest one hectare,” Cattiling said, adding all the laborers have to do is retrieve the uprooted plants and cut off the roots.
“It’s such a huge help not only for me but also to the laborers. For other growers out there who want to use this kind of machine, you must really try it,” Cattiling said.
Farmers in Isabela also use the cassava digger.
The cassava farmers in Isabela, with their much larger operations, also use the cassava belt dryer also developed by PhilMech, which can dry granulated cassava in just four hours compared to one to days using sun drying. It uses a biomass furnace to dry granulated cassava and has a capacity of 400 to 470 kilograms per hour. The drying unit can be operated by two persons.
ITGA and the Isabela cassava farmers sell their dried granulated cassava to firms that supply them to large companies like San Miguel Corporation. Granulated cassava can be used as animal feed or in food processing.