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Potato growers benefit from a government and food company initiative that helps them increase yields

Potato growers have discovered a lifeline in a government-led initiative spearheaded by Universal Robina Corp. (URC), which has allowed them to flourish in the face of a catastrophic epidemic.

In 2018, URC, one of the country’s largest food companies, and the Department of Agriculture agreed to collaborate to provide farmers with quality potato seeds, training, and research access in support of the Duterte administration’s major initiative of fostering a more productive and progressive agriculture sector through inclusive growth and sustainable development.

Since then, the program’s potato yields have increased by more than fivefold.

“Despite the pandemic, due to this initiative, we were able to produce a million kilos,” said Ardan Copas, president of the United Potato Cooperative in Benguet.

Farmers may now get 10 to 15 kilograms out of a kilo of seeds each year, up from three to four kilos before. They were able to gather 1,258 metric tons of potatoes last year.

This has helped them get by during the coronavirus disease pandemic of 2019 (Covid-19), which has interrupted food supply networks. It also ensured that customers would have a consistent supply of potatoes.

Under the “Sustainable Potato Program,” URC has been providing imported Granola potato seeds from Canada to agricultural communities of Benguet, Mt. Province, Bukidnon, and Davao del Sur.

Last year, the business was able to provide over 1,000 farmers with up to 135 metric tons (MT) of Granola Elite 3 table potato seeds imported from Canada.

“These were very good seeds,” Copas said, “and they’ve been a huge benefit to us.”

His crew was able to sell their potatoes for PHP30 to PHP35 per kilo, he added.

Farmers in Imbayao town, Bukidnon, were able to sell almost 10,000 kilograms of potatoes for PHP65 to PHP70 per kilo, according to Gabriel Bandao, president of the Imbayao Community Participatory Action Research Association.

“Every farmer in Imbayao benefited from the initiative.” As a result, we are grateful to URC. They’ve assisted us in increasing our production and, as a result, our life,” he added.

Cooperatives who took part in the program got excellent training as well as access to the most up-to-date research and technology in the field of potato growing.

As part of URC’s cooperation with the Prince Edwards Island Potato Board, a group of farmers attended a five-day training in Canada in 2019.

They learnt new seeding and planting methods, as well as soil management, storage, and other important activities.

“Everyone has benefited from this effort. Farmers are provided with the supplies they need to survive the epidemic. Efforts to promote high-value crops such as potatoes have increased. Meanwhile, URC achieves its objectives via its people- and planet-friendly approach, according to Laurent Levan, SVP of Corporate Development & External Affairs at URC.

The Sustainable Potato Program, according to Levan, is part of URC’s effort to become a worldwide sustainable organization.

“Alongside the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, our business is developing a sustainability plan.” This involves “ethical sourcing, manufacturing, consumption, and community development to improve livelihoods,” he said.

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