GUWAHATI, Feb 5 - Thousands of farmers in Karbi Anglong and West Karbi Anglong districts have taken up commercial cultivation of tapioca in a big way.
Over 8,500 farmers of the districts, mostly engaged in ginger cultivation, have also taken up cultivation of tapioca, considered as the �poor man�s potato�.
The farmers have come together under two organisations � Ginfed and Jirsong Agro Producer Company Ltd � of Diphu, which are also engaged in procurement and sale of the cultivated produce.
Jiten Sarang Phangsa, Managing Director of Ginfed, told The Assam Tribune here today that 7,011 farmers are part of Ginfed, while another 1,553 farmers are part of Jirsong.
�This year procurement of around 20 quintals has already been done. Farmers of Karbi Anglong have taken up tapioca cultivation in a bigger scale since the last three years and if the trend continues, there is a likelihood of a shift to largescale cultivation,� he said, adding that marketing is being done mostly in Guwahati.
He added that farmers took up commercial cultivation following an effort by the Assam Agricultural University (AAU) to show them the commercial viability of the crop.
Sowing is mainly carried out from March, while the harvesting period if between December and February.
Phangsa said that most of the cultivation is done in small plots of half bigha or one bigha land and it is mainly shifting cultivation.
�The farmers receive Rs 10 per kg for the produce while the production cost is only around Rs 2-3 per kg. At times, one tree can yield up to 45 kg. The average yield is around 20 kg. Besides being processed into flour, starch, semolina and sagoodana, it has use as adhesive and also in the textile industry,� he said.
The produce, known locally as himolu alu in the region, was usually consumed locally after boiling it.
�However, the market is better in Nagaland. In Assam, people are still not aware of the various uses of tapioca,� Phangsa said.
Officials in the Agriculture Department said that Karbi Anglong district is the biggest producer of tapioca in Assam.
It is also cultivated in Kokrajhar district. Nationwide, Assam stands sixth in tapioca production.
Mowsam Hazarika, Assistant Director of Agriculture, said that tapioca flour has to be added to wheat flour to make items like cakes and biscuits.
He said that dry tapioca has less fat compared to rice and wheat, but it contains more carbohydrate.
�Tapioca is an indigenous tuber crop which could be grown at a very low cost. It has the largest amount of pure starch, more than any other crop and has great value in the textile, paper and food industries,� Hazarika informed.
The farmers have been provided equipment like dryers, peelers and grinders by the AAU and the Indian Army under its Sadbhavana project.
�Earlier the farmers were mostly engaged in cultivation of turmeric and ginger, but slowly the area under tapioca cultivation is growing, though further potential exists,� Phangsa said.