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A glimpse at the status of high-value commercial crops Will the future be any better?

Miko Jazmine J. Mojica

Photos by Marlowe U. Aquino, Rita T. dela Cruz, Nicanor B. del Rosario and Ricardo G. Bernanrdo

Cosme took P1.58 billion. Frank more than doubled that amount - P3.3 billion. No, they were not seasoned con artists or code names of money launderers. Cosme and Frank were the official names of typhoons that struck the country last May and June and the reported amounts of damage it wrought on agricultural crops.

The impact of Cosme on high-value commercial crops (HVCC) was highest at P793.15 million, according to DA Central Action Center (DACAC). Affected provinces were Antique, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Palawan, South Cotabato, and Maguindanao. On the other hand, the damage caused by Frank to HVCC was reported by DACAC as of June 24 to cover 5,574 hectares. This was valued at P194.16 million and represented a production loss of 19,303 metric tons (mt).

Value

In the midst of these calamities, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is boosting the HVCC sector through the GMA-HVCC Program currently led by Dr. Rene Rafael Espino. To sustain the high production of leading HVCC such as banana and pineapple, the program identified the need to fast-track the transfer of new technologies to farmers, develop stronger linkage between fertilizer suppliers and farmer groups, and enhance training programs on integrated pest management and off-season production.

Based on last year's report, the HVCC is among the best performers in the agriculture crop subsector. Specifically, banana, pineapple, mango, tomato, onion, cabbage, eggplant, and rubber production are among the commodities responsible for the 47.56 percent in total agricultural output, an increase of 5.57 percent from the 2006 record.

For the first quarter of 2008 alone, the crops sub sector again posted the biggest expansion at 5.59 percent. Of this, gross earnings of HVCC increased by the following percentages: banana, 31.96 percent; coffee, 15.89 percent; pineapple, 15.38 percent; calamansi, 12.59 percent; and rubber, 9.06 percent. The remarkable increase was noted for the following commodities owing to high production and prices: tomato, 72.43 percent; eggplant, 62.82 percent; onion, 37.53 percent; abaca, 14.52 percent; and calamansi, 12.59 percent.

Volume

Banana
The 20.65 percent increase in banana production was related to the increased harvest and bearing hills for all varieties in Mindanao, particularly in the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Occidental, Davao del Norte, and North and South Cotabato. High production was reportedly induced by the rising exports. Those harvested in Iloilo and Negros Oriental were cited to yield better and bear bigger fruits. According to the report, the absence of typhoon during the first quarter contributed to the high production of banana in the region.

Espino deduced from the preliminary figures presented in the first quarter report that the 1.76 million mt target has been surpassed with the 1.92 million mt recorded banana production for the period, a 20.65 percent increase from the 2007 record for the same period. Davao, the top banana producer for the period, produced 714,271 mt. It also surpassed its own record for the same period last year at 643,495 mt.

Pineapple

Pineapple was considered another big gainer after attaining a 9.36 percent growth in output during the period. The performance report gathered that pineapple farms in Camarines Norte were able to recover from the impact of typhoons last year thus an increase in their output. The expansion of Del Monte farm in Mindanao and the additional pineapple areas cultivated in Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, and Sarangani also added to the increase. A 9.36 percent increase in production for the same period last year was realized when it reached 486,701 mt during the first quarter of 2008, higher than last year's yield of 445,039 mt. Making up the bulk of production are Northern Mindanao with 212,818 mt, and SOCCSKSARGEN with 223,204 mt.

Mango

Mango production suffered a 12.06 percent cutback for the first quarter of 2008 owing to the strong winds and rainy periods from November to December last year. The fungus anthracnose proliferated and destroyed the flowers of mango trees in major producing areas such as Pangasinan, Central Luzon, Iloilo, Guimaras, and SOCCSKSARGEN. Espino noted a production of 176,905 mt which was below the target of 224,738 mt for the first quarter.

Coffee

Coffee posted a 0.69 percent increase in production during the period. Harvests were productive in Nueva Vizcaya, Bulacan, Misamis Oriental, North Cotabato, Sarangani, Sulu, Zamboanga del Norte, and Lanao del Norte.

Calamansi

The 0.46 percent increase in calamansi production this quarter was largely the result of fertilizer application and good soil moisture because of frequent rains in Central Luzon, according to the performance report. Specifically, the calamansi farms in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Agusan del Sur posted increase in harvest.

Vegetables

Garlic farms in Ilocos Norte and Mindoro Oriental posted a 1.20 percent increase in output. This was spurred by the good market price of garlic last year which encouraged farmers to expand their area of production.

Meanwhile, onion producers suffered a 3.78 percent curb in output. Reasons factored in were the shifting of farmers to planting ampalaya and yellow corn in Pangasinan; low market price in Mindoro Occidental; and purple blotch disease in Ilocos Sur owing to sudden weather change.

Eggplant production also dropped by 3.92 percent because of farmers' shift to planting ampalaya and yellow corn, as well as the continuous heavy rains during the flowering stage of eggplant, thus the negative effect in production.

On the other hand, tomato production grew by 3.27 percent because of the high-yielding varieties Maquilla, Ilocano Red, and Apollo used in the provinces of Ilocos Sur and La Union. Farmers in Bukidnon also expected good market price in Metro Manila hence, their high production. Cabbage production also increased 8.38 percent owing to lesser attacks of pests and diseases. New areas for planting cabbage were also opened in Benguet and Ifugao.

Rubber

Rubber, which has been experiencing a consistent world price increase for six years now, increased its output to 6.37 percent for the period. In the DA-initiated National Rubber Development Program (NRDP), the target is to increase rubber plantation to one million hectares by 2016.

In 2007, the existing production area of 110,958 hectares produced a volume of 404,070 mt. According to GMA-HVCC, the area developed for 2007 alone reached 20,535 hectares while the target expansion area for 2008 is 21,600 hectares. Zamboanga Peninsula attained the highest production area of 42,133 hectares and volume of 404,070 mt in 2007. Other top producing regions include SOCCSKSARGEN, 157,134 mt; and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, 29,884 mt. The national target production for 2008 is 8,213,114 mt.

Collectively, "other" crops production inched up by 0.34 percent during the first quarter of 2008, according to the agriculture performance report. An increase in output growth was reported for Chinese pechay, carrots, white potato, oil palm, and papaya. Generally, favorable weather and the expansion of production areas were cited as reasons for the high growth of most HVCC.

Interventions

To sustain the growth of HVCC production and reverse negative growth, Espino said they are working to enhance the training and implementation of integrated pest management for pest control and low postharvest losses. The GMA-HVCC is also set to provide mobile packing house for small farmers to integrate production and marketing systems. Moreover, they are intensifying the provision of virus-free planting materials and other inputs.

To stabilize volume and market prices, the GMA-HVCC is working with different institutions to develop more areas for off-season planting. It is likewise supporting the Programang Gulayan ng Masa (PGMA), Bagsakan Centers, and Barangay Bagsakans as measures to increase vegetable production. Another measure being considered is the establishment of technology demonstration farms, in cooperation with the Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA), to test the performance of new varieties.

To complement the National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP), GMA-HVCC is also working with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) in order to respond to the need to commercialize appropriate technologies on agriculture and fisheries.

"Having a good technology is not enough. We have to make sure that the packages of technologies are in place for the effective promotion and transfer of technology. We have to convince the farmers that what we promote will benefit them for the better," Espino said during a consultation meeting with BAR.:

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References:
The Department of Agriculture Homepage. (2008). Crop damage from 'Frank' now at P3.3-B. Retrieved on June 24, 2008 from http://www.da.gov.ph.
The Department of Agriculture Homepage. (2008). D.A. mulls massive input program for high value crops . Retrieved June 17, 2008, from http://www.da.gov.ph.
The Department of Agriculture Homepage. (2008). 'Cosme' crop damage at P1.58-B. Retrieved May 27, 2008, from http://www.da.gov.ph
Mojica, M.J. (2008). GMA-HVCC, Optiserve Consultation Meeting. Retrieved 22 April 2008, from http://www.bar.gov.ph/photo/hvccmtg.asp
Bureau of Agricultural Statistics Homepage. (2008). Performance of Philippine Agriculture, January- March 2008. Retrieved 22 April 2008, from http://www.bas.gov.ph/downloads_view.php?id=233.