By Louise G. Dumas, Contributor

Northern Mindanao mulls moratorium on pineapple, banana farm expansion

Posted on September 27, 2014

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- The Region 10 office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking at a two-pronged approach of imposing a moratorium on the expansion of commercial crop plantations and strengthening upland rice programs to attain food sufficiency in Northern Mindanao.

Commercial crops that will be affected by the moratorium are pineapple and banana, two of the top ten agricultural export commodities.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics show the total area for rice production in Region 10 increased to 158,338 hectares in 2013 from 152,410 hectares in 2011, but rice sufficiency remains at 95%.

In 2013, Region 10 produced 1.74 million metric tons of bananas and 1.34 MT of pineapple, most of which were shipped out to the foreign market.

Several rice fields have already been converted to pineapple plantations, affecting rice sufficiency in the region, Cora A. Dumayaca, DA 10’s focal person for rice, said.

“That is a challenge, that is why we are also looking at the upland rice program to increase our rice sufficiency,” Ms. Dumayaca said.

For her part, Precy S. Akut, DA 10’s focal person for organic agriculture, said the planned moratorium, specifically within Bukidnon province, is also part of initiatives to promote eco-friendly farming.

“I think the local government units are aware of the effects of the chemicals from these plantations. The Department of Agriculture is promoting [farming] that is ecologically friendly and good for the people,” Ms. Akut said.

To be certified as an organic agricultural producer does not mean a 100% organic agricultural environment, said Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) Advocacy Officer Geonathan T. Barro.

“There are basic standards according to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. One standard, for example, is a one-meter buffer zone. After the one meter from the border you can already certify the produce as organic. These standards are there so that chemicals used in the surrounding farms do not affect the organic farm,” Mr. Barro explained.

Meanwhile, international non-government organization Greenpeace, which held a media forum on ecological agriculture here recently, said that the organization is heading towards a stronger campaign for a policy on ecological agriculture.

Daniel M. Ocampo, sustainable agriculture and genetic engineering campaigner for Greenpeace, stressed the organization does acknowledge that promoting ecological agriculture does not mean doing away with commercial plantations.

“If you want self-sufficiency, you have to lessen hectarage for commercial crops and focus on providing staple [food] for the people,” he said.

Greenpeace is also pushing for a more assorted staple food list as well as a return to indigenous rice production instead of developing new rice varieties.

“Why don’t we diversify our staple food instead of devoting a large amount of money on a research whose outcome we are not yet sure of?” Mr. Ocampo said.

He cited as an example the golden rice project of the International Rice Research Institute.

“Golden rice has beta carotene. It is not Vitamin A... It can be converted to Vitamin A only if the person will eat other types of food. Why won’t the person eat other kinds of food then to satisfy the nutrition needs? Kamote has more beta carotene than rice,” he said.