SAN AGUSTIN, PILI, CAMARINES SUR – The major high value crops commodities in Bicol posted notable growth in production based on the preliminary data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Pineapple and sweet potato posted the highest production growths among the high value crops in Bicol. Pineapple registered 13% growth from last year’s 95,082 MT to 107,357 MT volume of production in the first semester of 2020. Sweet potato or camote posted 12% growth from last year’s production of 62,974 MT to this year’s production of 70,645 MT.

Peanut posted a 7% growth from last year’s 815MT to 875MT in 2020. Mungbean or mongo recorded a 4% increase in production from 110 MT in 2019 to 115 MT in 2020. Okra posted a 6% increase in production from 755 MT in 2019 to 804 MT in 2020.

Commercial scale vegetable production in Bicol also increased. Native pechay posted a 3% increase from last year’s 10,318 MT to 10,635 MT in 2020. Squash posted a modest 1% increase from 15,622 MT in 2019 to 15,849 MT in 2020. Eggplant production also grew by 1% from 5,445 MT in 2019 to 5,515 MT in 2020. Tomato posted a 2% production growth from 3,544 MT in 2019 to 3,621 MT in 2020.

String beans contracted by 3% from 4,707 MT in 2019 to 4,552 MT in 2020. Ampalaya production contracted by 8% from 2,040 MT in 2019 to 1,886 MT in 2020. Pili nut production contracted from 2,627 MT in 2019 to 2,201 MT in the first half of 2020 and cacao also contracted from 22.73 MT in 2019 to 21.43 MT in 2020.

Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez, DA Bicol High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) regional coordinator said that the increase in production of the mentioned crops were attributed to the combined efforts of farmers, local government units, institutions and other government agencies providing direct support to the high value crops farmers.

Bicol is biggest contributor of sweet potato in the Philippines.

The Bicol region posted the largest production as well as growth rate in sweet potato in both first and second quarters of 2020 according to the PSA. Bicol’s sweet potato production of 24.89 thousand MT in the first quarter of 2020 is the largest among all regions, equivalent to 21.4 percent of the total output of the Philippines (116.52 thousand MT). Bicol’s sweet potato production grew by 3.8 percent, from 112.29 thousand MT in the first quarter 2019 to 116.52 thousand MT during the same quarter of 2020 (PSA Major Vegetables and Rootcrops Quarterly Bulletin Vol 14 No 1).

For the second quarter Bicol remained the biggest producer of sweet potato at 45.76 thousand MT or 29.1 percent of the 157.47 thousand MT total production of the country (PSA Major Vegetables and Rootcrops Quarterly Bulletin, April-June 2020)

The bulk of sweet potato production in Bicol came from the province of Albay.

One recipient of DA HVCDP interventions was the Camote Creations Farmers and Entrepreneurs Producers Cooperative (CCFEPC) based in the town of Daraga which gave sweet potato a new branding as a “food gourmet and high-end processed food for pasalubong”, from being a mere household’s simple food snacks.

Nolan Belaro, Manager of the coop expressed his appreciation to the DA Bicol HVCDP as the P2 Million worth rootcrops processing facility building which was turned over to the coop in 2017 has greatly helped them in developing new value added products out of sweet potato.

In 2018 the DA Bicol HVCDP also turned over a Multi-Commodity Solar Tunnel Dryer (MCSTD) worth P350,000; mechanical dryer worth P250,000; and 4 Wheel Drive Tractor worth P1 Million. For CY 2020, Dr. Rodriguez said that a P125,000-worth 2-deck oven and P45,000 generator set is scheduled to be awarded to the coop.

HVCDP interventions to increase farmers’ income

Luz R. Marcelino, DA Bicol Regional Technical Director for Operations said that the increased production in pineapple is partly a result of the adoption of best practices in pineapple production from series of researches conducted in the past years.

Likewise, to increase productivity of our farmers, the HVCD program established production facilities such as 8 units greenhouse given to 8 vegetable grower organizations. Based on study, this facility can reduce 95% of pest and disease occurrence particularly in vegetables. It provides a controlled environmental condition in terms of temperature, pest and disease, water and weeds promoting favorable growing condition for the crop thus, enable growers to cultivate their crop over a longer period of time regardless of the prevailing climate.

Another intervention of the HVCDP is the irrigation network services to help combat drought. In 2019 the HVCDP distributed 14 Pump Irrigation System for Open Source (PISOS) to 14 vegetable growers. The intervention irrigated additional 42 hectares devoted to high value crops. In the first semester of 2020, the HVCDP distributed 1 PISOS to Guisican Farmers Association, and 7 units multi-cultivator to 7 farmers associations.

To support the DA’s Plant, Plant, Plant Program, the HVCDP distributed a total of 5,342 kilos of assorted vegetable seeds, 2,767 pieces garden tools, and 949 bags fertilizers to farmers regionwide from January to July 30, 2020. (Lovella P. Guarin DA RAFIS 5 / sources PSA, DA Bicol HVCDP, Camote Creations Farmers and Entrepreneurs Producers Cooperative)