Young Farmer Finds New Peanut Promising
The peanut variety is called Asha and the young farmer growing it is Raffy Espiritu, an agricultural engineering graduate from Luna, La Union.
During the summit of YFP participants at the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City recently, Raffy was upbeat in relating his experiences in his peanut project which he started three years ago. He showed samples of the big seeds of Asha peanut he harvested as well as a sugarcoated product he processed. Peanut production with the use of the right variety can be a profitable venture, he said.
Of the one hundred or so participants, Raffy is the only one engaged in peanut production. After studying the business prospects of the project, he proposed it to the YFP, and he thinks he was right all along. What are the advantages of growing peanuts?
Raffy quipped that he is a lazy farmer and peanut is a lazy farmer’s crop. It does not require much attention. It does not require a big capital. It can be grown in both the wet and dry seasons, and there is a big demand for it at a fairly good price. He pointed out that the Philippines imports an average of 44,000 tons a year. On the other hand, the local production is just about 22,000 tons.
He has found, however, that growing the native peanut is not profitable. Local farmers would be lucky to break even. That’s because the yield is very low, an average of 1.2 tons per hectare. The seeds are very small which are not attractive to local peanut brittle makers and other processors. Removing the skin of the small nuts is more cumbersome than in the case of the big-seeded variety such as Asha.
Asha, Raffy says, is profitable to grow because it yields 3.5 to 4 tons of pods per hectare, equivalent to about 1.8 tons of shelled nuts. At the farmgate price of P60 per kilo of shelled nuts, the gross could be P108,000. Raffy said the average cost of production is P30,000 per hectare. Add a little more for the cost of marketing, and the margin is still substantial.
The Asha variety is really outstanding, according to Raffy. Each plant produces 45 to 72 pods per plant which could be three times the number of those of the native variety. The other advantage is that the seedpods have a uniform maturity. On the other hand, the pods of the native variety don’t mature all at the same time, especially during the wet season. The seeds of Asha are also at least twice bigger than those of the ordinary strain.
Raffy has all mapped out how he could make his peanut project profitable. Definitely, he will not go for the native variety which he planted in his first year. Because the local strain yielded so low, he had to look for the big-seeded variety which, fortunately, was brought to the country a few years back from the International Center for Research in Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in India. Incidentally, ICRISAT is currently headed by Dr. William Dar, former Agriculture secretary, who has been introducing new varieties of drought-resistant crops from India. Aside from peanut, he has introduced high-yielding varieties of pigeon pea and sweet sorghum.
Initially, Raffy planted 20 kilos of seeds of Asha (that was all that was available then) and planted the same in a farm that is clayey and not even ideal for a rootcrop. Nevertheless, the 20 kilos yielded 400 kilos which he multiplied for more seeds for planting. Meanwhile, he showed samples of the big seeds of Asha to peanut brittle makers in Baguio and Pangasinan. The nuns in Baguio were so excited, they were certainly interested to buy Asha for making peanut brittle. Another peanut brittle maker in Pangasinan is also interested to buy three tons every week. Raffy said that a big peanut butter processor in Manila could buy at prevailing prices everything that he could produce.
Another possible market is the fresh market. The buyers of fresh pods buy them by the “balde” at P140 per balde. This is another niche market that offers a few advantages. For one, the harvest is sold right away without the trouble of drying the seedpods. Another advantage is that the harvest is converted into cash immediately. It helps in the cash flow.
Meantime, Raffy will first concentrate in producing seeds for planting. The seeds for planting could command a premium price. Offhand, he says, many farmers tilling at least 50 hectares of rainfed ricefield in his hometown are eager to plant the Asha variety. He has also identified a similar area that is available for wet season planting in the upland areas of neighboring towns.
He plans to buy the harvest of other farmers which he would sell to the buyers he has already contacted. This will not only provide new source of income for his fellow farmers in La Union. He will also make money from buying and selling the produce of other farmers.
Who knows, someday, through the efforts of Raffy Espiritu, La Union could become the peanut basket of the country.