Bicol indigenous crops seen to boost local economy
by MA Loterte
Pili, Camarines Sur (11 February) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol has set eyes on revitalizing the region's three major commercial crops that are potential export winners not only for the region but also for our country.
Marilyn V. Sta. Catalina, DA Bicol officer-in charge and regional technical director for operations and regulatory, told PIA News Service that the agency has designed a program to commercialize pili, abaca and coconut, which abound in different parts of the region, transforming them into export cash crops.
Sta. Catalina observed that production and full development of these crops and corresponding industries were hampered in the past due to frequent typhoons, decrease in productivity, low budgetary support, lack of technology and infrastructure support.
She, however, said that DA Bicol, in partnership with the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), will soon spearhead the massive planting and replanting of these three major crops in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and Catanduanes to produce quality yields and meet the demands not only of the local but also of the international market.
The project will be implemented under the "Locally Funded Indigenous Crops Program."
Sta. Catalina further bared that DA Bicol, with the help of Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay first congressional district, was able to obtain P250 million budget for this program.
She added that the pre-implementation phase of the program, including the bidding process and procurement of supplies, materials and equipment, has already started last year.
The program, however, will be formally launched February 10, 2010 in Tabaco City, Albay, highlighted by the distribution of planting materials of the three crops to farmer beneficiaries and local government units (LGUs).
On Pili Development Program, DA Bicol targets to produce 400,000 sexually propagated and 300,000 asexually propagated pili seedlings. The seedlings will be distributed to the LGUs and farmer cooperators.
In tandem with the local governments, the agency will also establish 1,155 technology demonstration and orchard farms covering an area of 1,155 hectares; procure and distribute 35,000 bags of organic fertilizers and soil ameliorants; provide soil analysis services, market development support/services.
DA is also set to conduct trainings, extension and information support services including the publication of a coffee table book and other info materials, research and development and monitoring and evaluation activities to ensure sustainability of the program.
Some 5,000 hectares will be covered by the project of which 3,750 hectares will be in Albay province.
It can be noted that Bicol is the major producer of pili, accounting for 82 percent of domestic pili production. Pili has high potential for being a top export commodity for the Philippines as it can very well compete with macadamia, cashew, almond and walnut in terms of quality.
Today, pili nut confectionaries are already exported to Japan, US and European countries by local processors. Other than the nuts, the other by-products of pili - the resin or "manila elemi" from the pili trunk is used for the production of lacquer, thinner, and varnish. Pili oil is used for food and also as body scrub or lotion and other uses.
For Abaca Development Program, Fiber Development Authority (FIDA) will focus on disease eradication of 1,777 hectares infected by the bunchy top and mosaic disease virus; rehabilitation of also 1,777 hectares and expansion or opening of 331 hectares to be planted to this crop.
Bicol has regained last year its status as the top abaca producer in the country after several years of being overtaken by the Eastern Visayas because of the outbreak of bunchy top and mosaic viral disease.
FIDA Regional Director Dr. Edith Lomerio stated that abaca production in Bicol went up by 5.1 percent, totalling to 14,140 metric tons production, compared to Eastern Visayas production declining by 38.1 percent.
With this locally-funded program Bicol can hopefully maintain its rank as top abaca producer, Lomerio claimed.
For Coconut Development Program, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will put emphasis on production/procurement and distribution of 225,000 quality planting materials to cover 1,500 hectares; establishment of four nurseries; establishment and maintenance of seed garden stocked with 9,000 seednuts; embryo culture makapuno planting covering 60 hectares; coconut fertilization for a target area of 768.5 hectares; intercropping coconut plantation with a target of 145,000 cacao seedling covering 400 hectares.
From mere traditional commercial and industrial value of coconut, Bicolano entrepreneur Engr. Justino Arboleda, proprietor of Juboken Enterprise, has discovered the value of coco husks or coco coir as material for controlling soil erosion and enrichment.
The technology is now recognized worldwide and has earned Arboleda the prestigious BBC World Challenge Best Grassroot Project in the World, thus giving an added value and demand for coconut.
If only these three indigenous crops and natural wealth of Bicol will be revitalized and fully developed, Bicol will in no doubt be on its way to progress and prosperity, notwithstanding the constant threat of typhoons, volcanic eruptions, other calamities and adverse effects of climate change, concluded Sta. Catalina. (PIA V) [top]