Nowadays Porang (Amorphophallus muelleri Bl.) is one of the most popular agricultural commodities. Some farmers in Wonogiri are passionate about cultivating Porang cultivation. The cultivated areas of these commodities in Wonogiri are Karangtengah, Jatipurno, Girimarto, Slogohimo, Jatisrono , Manyaran , Eromoko , and Pracimantoro Districts.
The warm welcome from Wonogiri’s farmers in Porang plants development is none other than Porang’s promising economic value. Wet Porang roots cost IDR 4,000 to IDR 15,000 per kilogram, while Porang chips cost around IDR 55,000 to IDR 65,000 per kilogram. The highest price of Porang is in Porang flour with price up to IDR 300,000 per kilogram. It’s far past cassava commodity which has been one of the main commodities of Wonogiri which only costs IDR 2,000 per kilogram for dry cassava and IDR 500 per kilogram for wet cassava.
The prospect of Porang development is quite promising considering where most of the Porang flour is exported to Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea. Currently, export needs has only been filled by 20 percent, therefore market opportunity is wide open. Porang generally used as food and cosmetic products ingredient. Based on Kurniawati's (2010) study, it consisted of 81.72% glucomannan, 2.7% protein, 1.9% fat, and 0.19% oxalate. The largest content of Porang is glucomannan which is a chemical component that alter food product characteristics.
Generally, glucomannan is used as ingredient for konjac, shirataki, various cakes, bread, ice cream, candy, and other products. In addition to the nutritional component content, Porang roots also contain oxalate compounds, so it is necessary to be careful in processing Porang roots. According to the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture's Research Institute for Assorted Beans and Roots (Balitkabi), oxalate compounds are anti-nutritional components that detrimental to health because it can bind calcium in our bodies. In certain amounts or doses of oxalate, it can cause poisoning. In the processing Porang, an appropriate method is needed to minimize the negative impact of oxalate since it involves food safety which must be fulfilled.
Farmers enthhusiasm in Wonogiri in Porang plant development must be appreciated. For now, Porang producer other than Wonogiri are Madiun (East Java) and Bandung (West Java). One of the appreciations must be given by the Wonogiri Government, which must start observe and promote Porang as a regional main commodity. Hopefully, in the next few years Wonogiri can be the center of Porang, besides being known as the center of gaplek .It’s highly possible because at for now no other Porang producer regions declared themselves as center of Porang or areas with Porang as main commodity. It will be great if Wonogiri which is famous as gaplek center also being Porang center. Both are root commodities so it can be a milestone for Wonogiri to develop other types of roots, and it is possible that someday Wonogiri will be a role model in the development of roots commodities in Indonesia.
Wonogiri farmers optimism in developing Porang commodity helped by the existence of the Porang Nusantara Farmers Organization (P3N). P3N as a non-governmental organization able to bridge farmers to sell their Porang crops to exporting companies. In this case, farmers get a clear marketing link so that they will not confused where selling their crops and get a good price since it can cut the trade chain which can prevent involvement from middlemen. On the other hand, with the participation of P3N, it can transfer the knowledge regarding Porang harvest circulation to farmers so it is always available throughout the year considering that this commodity is not a seasonal commodity.
The involvement of P3N in stimulating and encouraging farmers in Wonogiri to develop Porang plants is not enough. It needs support from other parties to have a greater effect. In this case P3N tends to emphasize more on the harvest marketing or distribution aspects , while other supporting aspects have not been fully addressed. Porang farmers in Wonogiri carried out researches in finding the best soil to obtaining maximum yields. We should appreciate Porang farmers in Wonogiri for their creativity, but in this case they need more competent parties to help farmers.
Porang plant development can be carried out wholefully so Prang yield would be maximal and optimal both in terms of quantity and quality. The role of technology is indispensable in this regard, both in the cultivation process and post-harvest technology. In this case it needs collaboration between farmers and parties who have the technology, one of which is university. We understand that in the Soloraya area there are several universities that have faculties or study programs that are closely related to agriculture. In addition, in its operations, those institutions carry out the Tridharma Pendidikan which consists of teaching, research, and service aspects to community.
The aspect of research and community service can be an opportunity to carry out collaboration between Porang farmers and universities. It needs a commitment from all parties to continue improving the quantity and quality of Porang cultivation through technology because it is not enough if Porang only sold to the industry. The existence of technology can imporve the economic value of Porang itself so farmers will get higher profit and affect their welfare. For example, farmer should be encouraged to not sell Porang in fresh form, but that turned it to semi-finished products in the form of chips or flour. The production of chips and Porang flour can be done with the correct technology so the nutritional components in Porang are not damaged or reduced. In addition, the use of technology can also eliminate non-nutritional or anti-nutritional components that we avoid.
The cultivation of Porang has stretched in Wonogiri, it would be really disappointing if it is not supported by all parties. Do not let farmers looks alone in developing commodities that can actually raise regional and economy branding. If we look at other areas, for example Grobogan, it has become a center for local soybean development under the wing of Rumah Kedelai as a development center facilitated by the local government. It needs massive and intensive coordination in the Wonogiri area between farmers, local government, industry, universities, and non-governmental organizations. This coordination is important to map and determine the direction of Prang future development, especially in Wonogiri , so Porang cultivation can become a main commodity in development from Wonogiri which can be counted and high competitive at the provincial and national levels.
Bara Yudhistira, STP, M.Sc
Lecturer at the ITP Study Program and a researcher at the UNS Entrepreneurship Development Center
This article is also published in the Solopos daily, Tuesday edition, March 16, 2021