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Cassava farming gains ground

A growing number of farmers with idle lands in southern Negros are looking forward to earning extra income from planting cassava or “balanghoy,” as Ginebra San Miguel Inc. accelerated its program encouraging cassava farming in unproductive areas throughout the island.

Representatives of GSMI recently explained the program during a visit to farmers from Siaton and Bayawan City in southern Negros Oriental, saying that Ginebra is specifically tapping idle lands to provide income and livelihood opportunities in the areas with the company as the guaranteed market for the produce.

The program also promotes sustainable agriculture by training farmers on sound crop production and management practices including soil conservation.

Speaking before officers of the Lapay Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi Purpose Cooperative, and the Siaton Federation of Farmer Cooperatives, GSMI’s head for Advocacy, Joel Guevara, said Negros was the hands down choice for propagating the crop being the site of the company’s distillery – Distileria Bago - which uses both dried cassava chips and molasses as raw material for its alcohol production.

Due to the lack of supply and quality of chips, the company is presently sourcing its supply from Mindanao, Thailand and Vietnam. Its Starch Milk Plant alone requires four million kilos of chips a month.

To date, over a hundred farmers from Calatrava, Cauayan, Sipalay City and Hinoba-an in Negros Occidental already entered into an agreement with Ginebra San Miguel through the company’s accredited assemblers.

Those from Basay, Bayawan and Siaton in Negros Oriental are set to sign separate PPA agreements, Guevara said.

Under the scheme called “Production and Purchase Agreement,” farmers plant, harvest and process cassava into dried chips. GSMI’s assembler, in turn, provides them with free cassava planting materials, and guarantees to buy the chips at a minimum floor price which is set prior to actual planting.

Should the prevailing market price for dried cassava chips be higher than the agreed minimum on price by harvest time, farmers shall give the assembler the “Right of First Refusal,” the first option to buy their chips at the prevailing market price. If the assembler waives this right, the farmers can then sell their produce to the open market.

Farmers may also opt to sell their cassava chips directly to GSMI as a last option. Ginebra currently buys dried cassava chips at P8 per kilo delivered to its distillery in Bago City.

Cassava, also known as “balanghoy”, is a perennial root crop grown throughout the country for food, animal feeds and alcoholic drinks, among others. It is widely adaptable to varying weather and environmental conditions such as typhoons and droughts.

GSMI has planted the popular Golden Yellow variety and industrial-grade KU 50 and Rayong 5 in some 160 hectares of idle lands in eight demonstration farms.

These farms are located in Victorias, Bago, Pontevedra, Talisay, San Carlos, Candoni and San Vicente in Guimaras island. Average yield of the industrial grade varieties in these demo farms are at 20,000 kilos per hectare.

Government agencies supporting Ginebra San Miguel in the program are the departments of Agrarian Reform and Agriculture.

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