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Vol. XXVI, 3rd Quarter
July –September 2008

Nutritious and affordable substitutes for rice

Cassava (Kamoteng Kahoy)
Sweet Potato
Sweet Potato (Kamote)
Taro (gabi)
Saba (saging in Filipino)
Banana (Saba)
Corn (Mais)


The alarm set off by the supposed insufficient rice supply in the country quickly raised the staple’s prices.  The government went on rapid search mode to find food options especially for the vast majority of Filipinos with limited budget.

The options, it turned out, are abundant, affordable, and generally nutritious.

Take cassava, which has energy value of 145 kcal.  It is grown in 8-10 months and production cost per kilo is P1. Top cassava producing regions in the country are the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and Central Visayas.

On the other hand, sweet potato has energy value of 125 kcal, with a growing period of 3 ½ - 4 months and production cost per kg of P4.78 only. Top producers of this energy-packed root crop are Eastern Visayas, Bicol, CARAGA, Central Visayas, and Western Visayas.

Another option is taro, which has an energy value of 141 kcal with a longer growing period of 7-12 months in lowland areas and eight months in upland areas. The production cost per kg is a low P1.7 only.  Top regional producers are Eastern Visayas, Cagayan Valley, CARAGA, and Bicol.

Meanwhile, potato has an energy value of 78 kcal with a short growing period of 2 ½ - 3 months. Production cost per kg of potato is P5, and the top producers are the Cordillera Administrative Region, Davao, Northern Mindanao, SOCCSKSARGEN, and Central Visayas.

Another local food option is tugui with energy value of 110 kcal but with a much longer growing period of 8-10 months.  Leading tugui producers are Ilocos, CAR, Bicol, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON.

Bicol and Mindoro abound in nami with energy value of 96 kcal. Saba banana, an all-time favorite, has minimal cholesterol and fat content with many acids, enzymes, and physiologically important chemical compounds. The country’s total production of saba is about 2.29 million metric tons (34% of the total banana production of around 6.8 M metric tons).  It grows in 12 months including 26 days for planting and flowering; 8 months and 18 days from flowering to harvest; and 21 months and 14 days for planting to harvest.

Finally, white corn has more energy, calcium, beta carotene, and protein than rice. The major producer of white corn is Mindanao.

The energy values of these alternatives are based on 100 g raw edible portion of tuber.  Sources of planting materials are Visayas State University-Philippine Root Crops Research and Training Center, Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry, University of the Philippines Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding, Benguet State University-Northern Philippines Root Crops Research and Training Center, Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development, and private seed companies.