The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist will start a series of market encounters and technical briefings to various stakeholders to improve the marketability of selected commodities planned to be cultivated in Negros Occidental under its program to diversify crops.
Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino said yesterday that in order to ensure that the commodities eyed to be cultivated in the province will be profitable, OPA will push for a market-driven agriculture.
“The problem in the past was that there were initiatives to diversify crops but there are no buyers for its produce. This time, before we cultivate it, we want that a market encounter should be made first to let the producers, buyers, and consumers meet,” he said.
The series of market encounters and technical briefings on producing the selected commodities is part of the solutions proposed at the Negros First Transformative Agricultural Summit held at Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City last month.
Masculino said that the series will start in March where stakeholders like farmers, buyers, researchers, technical experts, among others, will present aspects like the suitability of the province in growing a certain commodity, and its marketability.
The province is still dependent on the sugar monocrop industry. 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 summit was held to present various commodities such as fisheries, livestock, and forestry that are viable in Negros Occidental as an answer to address the sugar issue, where, currently, some government officials are proposing to liberalize the incoming import supply in the country.
This proposal has received backlash from local stakeholders who say it will worsen the dwindling of the local industry, and drastically affect sugar producers, workers, and millers.
Masculino said diversification of commodities is one of the solutions the provincial government plans to implement in order not to be too dependent on sugar, but also in selected commodities.
The commodities selected were corn, cassava, sorghum, mushroom, cacao, coffee, banana, swine, poultry, and various high-value commercial crops, among others.
If the market encounters will be successful, OPA said it hopes that the commodities will be planted in the first cropping this year, that is, sometime in May or June, he said.
Earlier this month, Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Masculino went to a sorghum demo farm in Makilala, North Cotabato to explore options for the province.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol had invited them to see the farm as sorghum is one of the crops explored to be cultivated in the province, he said.
He added that if it will be adopted, it can give a boost to livestock production as the crop is an ingredient for creating feeds for animals.
Meanwhile, OPA has also requested the provincial government for P25 million for the farm mechanization program in Negros, Masculino said.
The proposed budget will be used to buy machineries for mechanizing agricultural activities, including the model farm areas around the province identified by OPA.
He added that the funding will come from the 20 percent development fund of Negros Occidental, and they are now waiting for its approval.*
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