Sweetpotato roundtable discussion addresses industry gaps

Issues, trends, and imperatives to improve the country’s sweetpotato industry were tackled during the recent Sweetpotato Industry Roundtable Discussion.  

Held at the Astoria Hotel, the event was organized by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) and the International Potato Center (CIP).

 Sweetpotato’s potential in meeting food and nutritional needs; value-adding in the competitive industry; and its role in climate change and disaster mitigation, were discussed during the event.  

Representatives from the food and non-food industries; sweetpotato producers/small rural enterprises; research and development (R&D) institutions and advocates; and the government sector participated in the event.

Nerisa Alob of the Sapang Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PMPC) said that sweetpotato producers in Tarlac are faced by various constraints: lack of clean planting materials, increasing cost of chemical fertilizer, limited extension services for sweetpotato producers, lack of organized groups for sweetpotato producers, limited access to common service facilities, limited knowledge in value-addition strategies, poor infrastructures such as farm-to-market roads, and low skills in marketing and bargaining.

PCAARRD-Crops Research Division (CRD) Director, Dr. Jocelyn Eusebio, provided the overview of research and development (R&D) initiatives in sweetpotato and a briefer about sweetpotato and its production in Asia and the world. 
Eusebio  also presented the programs and initiatives of PCAARRD under the Industry Strategic S&T Program (ISP) on Sweetpotato. She explained that one  of the main outcomes of the program is to increase the sweetpotato’s national average yield from 5.11 metric tons (mt)/ hectare (ha) in 2012 to 10 mt/ha in 2016 and 12 mt/ha in 2020.

Eusebio also discussed several ongoing projects under the PCAARRD ISP on sweetpotato as well as the programs and initiatives of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) on the same concern.

DA-HVCDP strategies and policies seek to strengthen the rootcrop research and development and extension (RDE) system, increase production through intercropping with appropriate cash crops for land use optimization, improve value-added products for the local and external markets, and develop efficient supply chains.

The said strategies and policies also work on export promotion for both fresh and processed products by effecting the necessary  regulatory services and accreditation and certification system for nurseries and agricultural practices. 

The Roundtable Discussion identified gaps and other researchable areas through Science and Technology (S&T)-based program approach and potential food and other industry markets, and value chain development opportunities, among others.

“Sweetpotato has a great market demand for flour and chips and other processed products such as catsup, starch, and fries. It also provides health benefits,” one of the participating groups said. 

Identified as necessities in addressing the gaps facing the sweetpotato industry were: clustering production, postharvest, processing, and marketing, including the required R&D activities to achieve the efficiency  of these systems.

Other identified needs, as suggested, include marketing linkages, improved strategy on technology, knowledge and information dissemination, and collaboration.