A ceremonial groundbreaking was held for the establishment of the first Sweet Potato Processing Center in the Visayas held on December 8, 2020 at the Women’s Training Center in Barangay Cogon, Baybay City.

On the same event, VSU President Edgardo E. Tulin and Baybay City Mayor Jose Carlos L. Cari officially signed two Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs) and one licensing agreement for a long term project that is expected to boost and revitalize the local root crop industry in Baybay City.

The first MOA signed between VSU and Baybay City includes supplementing the needed financial, technical, and product development support to operate the sweet potato processing center, while the second one aims to establish the supply areas needed to keep up with the expected demand for root crops because of the establishment of the processing center.

Meanwhile, the signing of the licensing agreement was done as part of the technology transfer initiatives of VSU.

The Sweet Potato Processing Center will be mainly utilized for the production of puree, which is considered as an intermediate raw material for many other by-products like bread, ice cream, and even children’s food.

The Philippine Root Crop Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops) considers this project as another great achievement that will open many opportunities for the Center to perform its mandate and showcase its mature technologies amidst the ongoing pandemic.

PhilRootcrops aspires to increase the utilization and consumption of root crops as a high value commodity that will promote nutrition and health at an affordable price.

This initiative with Baybay City also envisions to develop the local root crop value chains and industries that will provide sustainable livelihood or income opportunities to root crops farmers, processors, and other stakeholders in the locality.

One of the goals of the project is to promote the use of sweet potato and other root crops as intercrops for farmers who are already cultivating coconuts to provide alternative income and in turn make them more resilient against the fluctuating price of copra.

The construction of the sweet potato processing center is part of Baybay City’s long term investment in strengthening the local sweet potato industry with an initial allocation of 10 million pesos.

A bigger portion of this amounting to 7 million pesos shall be used for the development of infrastructure and the acquisition of necessary equipment needed for the project while the remaining 3 million pesos shall be appropriated for training and other support activities.

On the part of VSU, the University pledged to support and provide needed technical assistance to local root crop growers and processors in Baybay City. The Extension and Socio-Economics Division of the Philrootcrops headed by Prof. Marlon M. Tambis is currently facilitating activities like the establishment of more local production areas, monitoring of product development activities, market matching, and coordinating with relevant stakeholders, among others.

PhilRootcrops will also be in close coordination with the City Agriculture Office headed by Ms. Mora Abarquez for the implementation of the said project. Scientists from PhilRootcrops and the Department of Food Science and Technology were particularly assigned to help in three major areas of the project.

Dr. Julieta R. Roa will serve as a consultant for business operations, Dr. Roberta D. Lauzon for processing and product development, and Dr. Daniel Leslie S. Tan for the development of machinery and equipment.

Present during the groundbreaking ceremony and MOA signing were local officials of Baybay City LGU including current Mayor Jose Carlos L. Cari, former Mayor Carmen L. Cari, and the members of the Sangguniang Panglungsod.

VSU was represented by Dr. Edgardo E. Tulin (University President), Dr. Othello B. Capuno (Vice President for Research, Extension and Innovation), Dr. Jose L. Bacusmo (former VSU President and current Director for Research), Dr. Antonio P. Abamo (Director for Extension), Dr. Elinda E. Vasquez (PhilRootcrops Director), and Prof. Marlon M. Tambis (Head of the PhilRootcrops Extension and Socio-Economics Division).

Provincial officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Leyte also took part in the ceremonial groundbreaking. DOST Provincial Director John Glenn Ocana provided an ice cream maker to Baybay City LGU. Ice cream is one of the final by-products targeted to be produced from sweet potato puree.

If completed, this project is expected to boost the income of local root crop farmers and hopefully elevates the status of sweet potato from being a marginal crop to a high value commodity.

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