Friday, June 24, 2011

Batanes: Country's Leading Organic Producer says DA Secretary Alcala

Batanes to become the leading organic producer in the country
by Jerome Carlo R. Paunan

QUEZON CITY, June 20 (PIA) -- So promised the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Proceso Alcala when he visited the northernmost tip of the country.

The DA recently invested P20 million in the island province of Batanes (658.37 kilometers north of Manila), the country’s northernmost province with a rich agri-fishery potential as identified by the agency.

Secretary Alcala said that of the P20 million worth of projects, P6 million had been earmarked for the construction of a seed storage and integrated plant and animal laboratory service building in the capital town of Basco, in Vatan island.

The facility will benefit some 1,400 farmers engaged in high value crop and livestock production.

The facility, funded under the DA’s High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP), will feature a cold storage facility to store indigenous seeds and planting materials, including turmeric, garlic, onions, rootcrops, and fruits; a freezer to store semen for artificial insemination services; and a warehouse for palay and crop seeds, and farm inputs like bio-organic fertilizers, Alcala said.

The DA, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), will also put up a P5-million agri-fisheries center and regional office in Basco, near the provincial capitol, he added.

Alcala also committed an additional mechanical dryer at the warehouse of the DA’s National Food Authority, and a rice mill for the town of Itbayat. The two facilities are worth roughly P2 million.

During a recent forum at the Itbayat Central School, Sec. Alcala distributed about P2-million worth of farm and fishery projects and inputs to benefit hundreds of farmers and fishers in five barangays. These include small scale irrigation systems, a windmill-operated pump, greenhouses, fishing nets, vegetable seeds, and livelihood assistance.

He also committed to distribute to qualified farmers 70 head of draft carabaos with farm implements, and one sheep module (one buck and nine ewes). The livestock animals are worth about P1 million.

The DA-BFAR will also implement a “Kabuhayan sa Karagatan” program, worth about P1M, that includes the establishment of crab hatcheries, processing enterprise for flying fish, and seaweeds, and conduct of training on how to catch tuna.

In Sabtang island, Alcala distributed about P750,000-worth of farm and fishery implements, vegetable seeds, greenhouses, drip irrigation equipment, a liquid quick freezer, fish nets, vacuum packers, smokehouses, plastic sealers, and bottles for sardine-making.

The agriculture chief also committed to provide P1 million for the ‘Kababaihan’ livelihood project in Raele, Itbayat, to train women how to produce and process breadfruits, guavas, cashew nuts, onions, garlic, coffee, and other indigenous crops.

The DA will also encourage and teach Batanes farmers to produce early-maturing crops like mongo, sesame, and soybeans.

He said the province is a good source of organic products. Hence, the DA will assist farmers and fishers to produce and export to local and international markets. “We will make Batanes a leading organic producer in the country,” he said.

Likewise, to encourage Batanes youth to engage in farming and fishing enterprises, Alcala committed to sponsor 10 students as scholars to enroll in agriculture and fishery college courses. (DA/RJB/JCP-PIA NCR)

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