Monday, May 16, 2016

DA promotes commercial production of new pineapple variety in Camarines Norte By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Norte, May 13 (PNA) -– The regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is pushing farmers in Camarines Norte into commercial production of a newly-introduced high-yielding pineapple variety other than the province’s widely-grown Queen Formosa.

The new variety is called the Super Sweet Snack Pineapple or Ulam which originated from Davao and found in tests to be demonstrating an impressive outcome by showing great harmony with the soil and climatic condition of the province, Edgar Madrid, DA’s regional technical director for research and regulations, on Thursday said.

The tests conducted last year showed that Ulam, when grown in the province using local farmers' best agricultural practices for the “queen”, could further boost the local pineapple industry, according to Madrid.

Different production methods such as the medium density, low fertilizer planting techniques; the high density, medium fertilizer best practices for queen pineapple and; the high density, high fertilizer rate of Mindanao growers were used in the test which proved that Ulam produced very sweet fruit with edible core, he said.

Besides, this new variety is also capable of producing spiny leaves that could also be manufactured into high-end fabrics like what enterprising farm families in the province are doing with queen leaves.

DA records show that in all the 12 towns of Camarines Norte, where an average of 25,000 queen cultivars are grown on every hectare of farm, a batch of 875,000 leaves can be derived—a volume that is once considered as farm waste but now being processed into fiber that is manufactured into quality textile.

Madrid cited the undertakings of the Labo Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LPMCP) based in Labo town that promotes livelihood projects on pineapple production and integrated leaves processing that now provide employment in the creation of innovative products in response to the needs of both the domestic and international markets.

The cooperative, whose majority members are farmers, produces hand-woven and machine decorticated fibers from the leaves of the queen pineapple, adopting the method of manual scraping to come up with the textile called “piñacloth” learned from the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The PTRI has recognized piña cloth for its fineness, tensile strength and high standard that, when interwoven with silk, comes up with piña silk, which is later made to Barong Tagalog, camisas, or kimona.

The use in the textile industry of queen pineapple fiber that is known for its strength and silky appearance has long been recognized and the demand is continuously growing for being developed as substitute for cellulose.

Its considerable volume of production is also being eyed to supplement the limited production of cotton and in the case of LPMCP, the cooperatives' fiber-based products are marketed locally and internationally with Laguna-based embroiders, garments manufacturers, boutique, and department stores deriving their supply from Camarines Norte.

With the demand in foreign markets for good piña cloth that can meet the preference of high end consumers, the cooperative is now also exporting its hand-woven products to Japan, Hong Kong, USA, Canada, France, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, The Netherlands and some other countries in Asia.

Aside from barong woven from the Formosa fiber, the LPMPC is also exporting pineapple fiber to the United Kingdom for the manufacture of a known brand of shoes.

Madrid also allays apprehensions that the entry of Ulam would sidetrack the Formosa variety which is renowned for its golden yellow flesh, crisp texture and mild delicate flavor, making it very suitable for fresh consumption.

The queen would remain the “signature” variety of the province’s pineapple industry as it has been more than a source of nutritious fruit for snack or dessert and DA will continue to conduct studies geared towards improving this variety which Camarines Norte is known for.

Recently, the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) approved for funding the Php26.6-million Camarines Norte Queen Pineapple Trading and Processing Project to upgrade the province’s existing Formosa pineapple juice processing project.

The province owes a lot to queen pineapple being its flagship crop. This fruit has marked its contribution to alleviating poverty in the province which registered the lowest poverty incidence at 28.7 percent among Bicol’s six provinces, way below the regional rate of 32.3 percent, according to the latest report of the Philippine Statistical Authority.

Ulam, Madrid said, would be an answer to farmers’ sentiments that the fruit of Formosa pineapple in the province is getting smaller due to the fact that only one variety is planted through the years.

In pushing large-scale production of this new variety, the DA and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) are implementing a contract growing scheme with local farmers under Republic Act 91268 or the Philippine Plant Variety Protection Act of 20012 so that it is widely propagated in the province.

This Act, according to BPI’s regional supervising agriculturist Vivencio Mamaril, protects and secures the exclusive rights of breeders with respect to their new plant variety, particularly when beneficial to the people.

BPI is now recruiting pineapple growers who are interested to plant the Ulam variety as Mamaril explained that the promotion of Ulam variety growing is not aimed to take out the queen Formosa, but rather to give farmers a choice. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/cbd