LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 28 (PNA) — Each of the six Bicol provinces has its own signature crops that homegrown farmers can exploit in their agricultural entrepreneurship ventures, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
For Albay, DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas suggested cacao and coconut; pineapple for Camarines Norte; papaya, tomato and high-value fruits and vegetables for Camarines Sur; abaca and mushroom for Catanduanes; cassava for Masbate; and pili for Sorsogon.
Bragas made the suggestion during the recent Entrepreneurship/Salesmanship and Pricing Seminar conducted here by the agency’s regional Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) for farmers, barangay food terminal operators, food processors, officers and members of Rural Improvement Clubs and agricultural extension workers.
He said Albay is Bicol’s leading coconut producer as 95,794 hectares of its 158,262-hectare agricultural land are planted to this crop that should not be good only for copra but also for other processed or manufactured commodities such as industrial coir, virgin oil and natural vinegar.
Coconut coir or geonet, which is manufactured from coconut husk, has an existing total market value of PhP 5 billion and a market potential of PhP 12 billion per year — an earning opportunity that the province’s agricultural sector should take advantage of.
There are now several manufacturing firms, farmers’ organizations and households in the province engaged in this venture that has been turning out very profitable and all that is needed to nurture this industry are more hands that are determined to earn more by trying their luck in entrepreneurship, Bragas said.
Virgin coconut oil, which is processed from pure coconut milk, and natural coconut vinegar or “sukang niyog” that is made from coconut water or from sap or “tuba” through a fermentation process are both products that could be produced at home of community-based processing plants and supplied to its fast-growing market, he said.
On cacao, the DA recently launched a commercial production in the 3rd district of Albay under its “Seeds-to-Shelf” program, a strategy that involves interventions starting from making seeds available to farmers up to the process foods go through before hitting the market.
All around the province is a tropical weather and volcanic soil that is suitable for cacao farming but, unfortunately, this important high-value commercial corps have not been given due importance by farmers in the past, Bragas said.
“For now, we are focusing on cacao in its implementation which was recently rolled out in Jovellar, Albay in partnership with the town government and Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of the province’s third congressional district,” Bragas said.
Gonzalez himself has been pushing local farmers into agri-entrepreneurship as a way to alleviate them from poverty by increasing their earning capabilities.
“Entrepreneurship is one effective way for our farmers to improve their purchasing power, leading to a more progressive economic life for their families. We want to reverse the situation wherein farm folk, the most dominant in number in every rural community are counted as among the poorest sector of the present local society,” he said.
Camarines Norte is among the country’s top producers of Queen or Formosa pineapple, touted as the world’s sweetest variety, which the province produces from its 2,400 hectares of farmland distributed among its 12 municipalities from where an average of 40,000 metric tons of fruits are harvested per cropping cycle of 12 months.
But it is not only the fruit that makes the province’s pineapple famous but also for its leaves, once considered as farm waste but now being processed into fiber that is manufactured into high-end fabrics called “piña cloth.”
With the demand in foreign markets for good piña cloth that can meet the preference of high end consumers, more Camarines Norte farmers are needed to engage in this form of entrepreneurship to satisfy the demand by both the domestic and international markets.
Catanduanes, an island province sitting off the northeastern side of the Bicol Peninsula, has a total of 23,676 hectares of abaca plantations cultivated by 15,454 farmers that produce an average of 19,000 metric tons of fiber yearly representing 33.2 percent of the total national production.
While Catanduanes grows a lot of abaca, Bragas said, the province also needs to make use of its idle farm land in the wide-scale production of mushroom that enjoys a high market demand and high price.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz), called locally as kamoteng kahoy or balinghoy, is an important crop not only for its value as a substitute staple to rice but also as principal raw material for the manufacture of livestock feeds and industrial uses such as an alternative source of raw material for producing liquor as well as medical and industrial alcohol.
In production, compared to other crops, cassava does not need rigid cultural management and favors the very hot temperature of summer, especially at harvest and drying time -- that is why it is best suited to Masbate, according to Bragas.
He said his office is encouraging the province’s farmers to increase areas planted to cassava while the DA is helping them with the provision of high-yielding varieties, farm mechanization, capability building and market matching.
Camarines Sur, the largest Bicol province in terms of population and land area, on the other hand, has an expansive farm area which can be utilized into the commercial production of high-value vegetables and fruits which local farmers can make use in their entrepreneurship ventures, Bragas said.
Pili nut is the region’s most popular processed food product whose leading source is Sorsogon where pili trees, known as another “tree of life” next to coconut, are grown intensively in farms, plantations and backyard orchards.
Sorsogon pili is known not only for its nuts but the tree is also a source of resin and pili pulp oil, among other byproducts, which farmers can make use of in putting up small enterprises, Bragas said.
“We are providing Bicol farmers with different entrepreneurial skills, such as assessing the demand; sizing up the market; estimating the cost and setting the price; business management; good communication and listening skills; time management; practicing business ethics; and mobilizing financial, human and material resources,” he added. (PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD