Gone are the days when Negrosanons were over dependent on sugar.
With the latest development, the provincial government of Negros Occidental is now formulating its own commodity development plans, where its available products have comparative and competitive advantage.
We can no longer depend so much on sugar, former Negros Occidental Governor Rafael Coscolluela, provincial Investment Promotions, Trade and Export Development and Inter-Agency coordinator, said.
Coscolluela, who briefed participants of the Negros First Transformative Agricultural Summit at the Natures Village Resort in Talisay City, said in line with the Negros First Pro-Agric Development Program there are other agri-commodities in the province that have lots of potential.
“If we will not explore all other opportunities now, the other countries around us, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, are not sitting still,” Coscolluela said.
They are all becoming aggressive and seeing the same opportunities, he said.
Of the 526,838 agricultural land area of Negros Occidental, 55 percent, which is 189,836 hectares, is devoted to sugarcane, while the remaining land areas are planted with coconuts, corn, rice, fruits, vegetables and some to fishponds.
The sad thing is that we are importing a lot of food, even tropical fruits and rice, despite so many resources, such as land, water, climate, talent and capital, Coscolluela said.
Regional directors Remelyn Recoter of the Department of Agriculture, Helen Katalbas of the Department of Tourism and Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica were among those who expressed their full support to the Negros First Pro-Agri Development Program of Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr.
Katalbas said she noted that food production from fisheries and the agri-sector are not growing as fast as expected in the tourism sector.
While the volume of tourists in Negros Occidental and Western Visayas is increasing by leaps and bounds, sad to say, food production is not growing as fast, she added.
Recoter, on the other hand, said that Negros Occidental received P800 million worth of agri-infra and enterprises from the Department of Agriculture.
Coscolluela also noted that agriculture remains the lowest growing sector in the Philippine economy.
In his briefing on the Negros Occidental agricultural situation, he said the province remains dominated by the sugar industry with milling overcapacity and threatened by competition, such as alternative sweeteners, import liberalization, health issues, labor shortage and high costs.
He also noted a surplus of pork, carabeef, chevon, poultry, banana production, and deficit in eggs, beef, fruits and vegetables, and a surplus on renewable energy, dependence on imports of rice, corn, feeds.
The potential of commercial crops, such as coffee, cacao, bananas, pineapple, coconut, and specialty crops like malunggay, herbs and spices are under-exploited, Coscolluela also said.
While Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is doing its best to push for the agriculture programs at the national and regional levels, Coscolluela said he wants to see a program precisely and specifically for Negros, for farmers and fishermen to produce and make profit out of it.
“What we would like to see that it will be organized in a logical market smart manner, so that we can compete with our neighbors,” he said.
The agri-summit wants to send a message that we need a change, Coscolluela said, adding it is time to change with the times, with a direction.
“Let’s do it in an organized, logical and smart market way,” he said.*
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