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Posts Tagged ‘cassava’

Oyos Saroso H.N.

Tulangbawang

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Cassava farmers in Lampung — one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia — are reaping the benefits of bioethanol factories springing up in the area.

Bioethanol refineries, including PT Medco Energy, PT Acida Tama, PT Madusari Lampung Indah and PT Sungai Budi, have flourished in the area, lifting production capacity to between 180,000 liters and 60 million liters annually.

Thanks to their presence, the production of cassava has surged significantly. In June, the price of cassava at the farmer level reached Rp 500 (US$0.5 per kilogram), compared to between Rp 150 to Rp 200 per kilogram previously.

The only company obtaining its supplies of cassava from farmers earlier was PT Sungai Budi, the biggest tapioca flour mill in Lampung.

A farmer in Tulangbawang, Ferdi Gunsan, 45, is enthusiastic about the presence of the bioethanol factories in Lampung and is looking forward to growing cassava on his 50-hectare farm.

“Growing cassava now is more lucrative than coffee or oil palm. A number of oil palm farmers have replaced their crops with cassava now. Besides the available bioethanol factories, technology to increase our output is also available now,” Ferdi, referring to the joined stem seedling method, said.

The joined stem seedling technique includes attaching the lower stem of the regular cassava with the upper stem of the entres variety cassava, better known as the singkong karet.

Usually, the lower stem is selected from the stem of a plant which is 11 months old with a stem around 2 centimeters in diameter.

The lower stem is generally taken from the Kasetsart variety from Thailand, while the upper stem is the local variety, with a diameter of around 1 centimeter and 15 to 30 centimeters long. Farmers can yield 60 to 100 tons of cassava from a one-hectare plot by applying the method.

Farmers with limited capital usually work with bioethanol producers, such as in East Lampung, where Suparlan, 40, works with other farmers in collaboration with PT Madusari Lampung Indah (MLI).

MLI collaboration manager Susilo Sugiarto said in cooperation agreements farmers were only required to provide land, while MLI provided the working capital and guaranteed the market price.

“The working capital package consists of seedlings, compost, pesticides and dolomite lime worth Rp 5.5 million for each hectare of cassava farm. We are working together with around 1,400 farmers from 46 villages in East Lampung,” Sugiarto said.

With a production capacity of 50 million liters of ethanol annually, MLI is currently operating around 1,600 hectares of cassava farms. It aims to manage 4,000 hectares of cassava farms by extending the partnership system to farmers in East and South Lampung.

To meet supply needs, MLI needs at least 4,000 hectares of cassava farms yielding between 60 to 100 tons per hectare, Susilo said.

“The partnerships have only reached 1,600 hectares. The current contract price of cassava has been mutually agreed on at Rp 280 per kilogram. However, we will increase the price because it hovers between Rp 350 to Rp 400 per kilogram on the market now.”

Farmers are able to reap more than Rp 8 million even if the price is set at Rp 300 per kilogram, because harvests from joined stem seedlings yield 60 tons per hectare, a gross profit of Rp 18 million.

In Indonesia, investors generally use land which has been grown with cassava traditionally to meet supplies for their raw material.

While the main cassava farming area in Lampung spans an area of 3,000 hectares, other farms are spread throughout Southeast Sulawesi and Java, while farms cover under 1,000 hectares.

Nitti Soedigdo is the leader of the Makmur village cooperatives unit in Pugung Raharjo village in Sekampung Udik district, East Lampung. He said the presence of bioethanol factories in Lampung was expected to revive farmers’ revenues.

“Cassava farmers in Lampung have so far lived a miserable life because of the low price of the commodity due to monopoly practices,” he said.

Bioethanol factories will act as a cassava price buffer because they need the commodity in huge volumes to meet their supplies of raw material, he said.

“Farmers are also in a strong bargaining position because they have so many choices over where to sell their harvests.”

Lampung Governor Syamsurya Ryacudu said the province had been targeted to become one of the largest bioethanol producers over the next five years.

Source: The Jakarta Post, Wed, July 2, 2008

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