ANISLAG, Daraga, Albay—In those days, when one is lazy and a slow learner, teachers would often say to the student, “go and plant camote!”

The Department of Agriculture-Bicol is encouraging everyone to “go and plant camote” to be healthy, “eat camote” and earn additional income. Now, such expression has a different connotation.

Presently, the DA-Bicol inaugurated and turned-over the Rootcrops Processing Facility worth 2M pesos to the members of Camote Creations Farmers and Entrepreneurs Producers Cooperative (CCFEPC) on May 28, 2018 here.

According to High Value Crops Development Program Regional Coordinator Rose M. Imperial, the establishment of the RPF is an intervention of DA-Bicol to provide postharvest facility and improve the value adding quality of sweet potato which will benefit the members of the said cooperative and the farmers.

CCFEPC Chairman Nolan G. Belaro related how their cooperative acquired the lot from Carlos Conda. Conda is a member of the cooperative and sold the lot for only Php500.00/sqm. Each member shared their own resources to raise Php500,000.00 for the lot. Aside from the said lot, Conda will allow the cooperative to develop the surrounding areas.

Imperial said that the RPF will train farmers to be entrepreneurs. Sweet Potato is considered the world’s healthiest food and as an alternative staple food. By banking on the health and nutritional values of Sweet Potato plus processing it into other products like cupcakes, camote juice with camias, camote prunes, camote jams, camote fries, catsup sauce, camote paste for sardines, pansit, and camote chips, the DA is optimistic that this facility will soon be a one-stop shop of other rootcrops. Imperial also said that DA-Bicol already provided a multi-commodity solar dryer to the cooperative.

Belaro envisions the area to be an agri-tourism site. The Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) approved the construction of another processing facility worth 9M pesos beside the RPF to the cooperative. Belaro will coordinate with the Departments of Science and Technology (DOST) and Trade and Industry (DTI) for other assistance and support to improve their camote products and technology. Aside from food, the cooperative is looking for the development of native products derived from the vines of camote which when dried can be woven into fruit trays, flower vase and lampshades.

Meanwhile, Albay Provincial Agriculturist Cheryll Rebeta said that this is the first of its kind in Albay. She shared that 15% of the Albayanos are considered poor and mostly are in the farming sector. With this facility, sweet potato which thrives well in the soils of Albay will propel the agricultural sector into progress.

Rebeta also encouraged the members to keep on producing sweet potato especially the Japanese variety (yellow). She said that Senator Cynthia Villar is looking for suppliers of said camote variety which will be processed into cakes because there is a growing demand in restaurants in Manila.

Eugene Deocarezas, representing Daraga Mayor Carlwyn Baldo said that one of the programs of the LGU is the intensified support to farmer-entreprenuers. He assured the cooperative that the request for electrification and water supply of the RPF will be relayed to the mayor.

“There is a big potential in camote. Let this RPF be a bridge to farmers’ development!” Belaro said. (jaysonmgonzales)