Lawmaker calls on DA to boost sweet potato development as alternative to rice

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) should fund the development of sweet potato, locally known as kamote, to boost production and food innovation to make it a more attractive alternative to rice, a lawmaker said on Tuesday.

Iloilo Rep. Janette L. Garin, a physician and former health secretary, said promoting alternatives to the Filipino staple is necessary as rice growers have warned of a potential shortage next year amid the continuing rise in input costs and low farmer income.

She said the Agriculture department should “increase production and make the necessary investment in root crops — in terms of agricultural research, food technology, or marketing.”

“Our love for rice has given birth to the famous ‘extra rice’ and ‘unli rice’ cultures. Unlike the popular expression ‘rice is life,’ we encourage restaurants to try using kamote in place of rice and even as French fries,” she said.

Ms. Garin also pointed out that sweet potatoes are a healthier food choice given its nutritional content compared with rice.

“Now that we have a possible problem with the supply of rice and its increased consumption contributes to more cases of Type 2 diabetes in Filipinos, it’s time to control our diet and, if possible, avoid eating a lot of rice,” she said.

Sweet potato production from April to June this year was 163.94 thousand metric tons, up 4% from 157.68 thousand metric tons in the same period of last year, based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The root crop is mainly used for local delicacies and as an ingredient in vegetable dishes.

A DA investment guide on sweet potato also cites its use as an ingredient for the production of “catsup, jam, soy sauce, jellies and other bakery products. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo