By Louine Hope U. Conserva, Correspondent
GUIMARAS — This island province off the southern part of Iloilo has the reputation for growing the sweetest mangoes in the country, but its production level has remained low.
Gov. Samuel T. Gumarin said while the local government and stakeholders have been working to develop the industry, technical capability and financial capacity have been limited.
As such, Mr. Gumarin said the plan of Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, to set up a school on the island focusing on mango production is a most welcome development.
“It is an innovation that we would like to have because for years we have strived to improve the mango industry in the province,” he said during the opening of the 20th National Mango Congress on May 30, hosted by Guimaras Province.
Ms. Villar cited during the event that while Guimaras has 645,000 hectares of agricultural land, only about 10% is planted with about 300,000 mangoes trees.
“That means each hectare is not yet planted with one (mango) tree. So there are still a lot of opportunities here,” she said, noting further that the top mango-producing regions are all in Mindanao.
The senator committed to set up a “mango school” on the island and bring in representatives from the Agricultural Training Institute to teach best practices.
“It will be the first mango school in the country,” she said, “We need to teach the ordinary residents of Guimaras on how to plant and grow the trees.”
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will be tapped to fund both instructors and students, she added.
Ms. Villar also urged the province to develop agri-tourism as well as agri-schools, for both farmers and fisherfolk.
“Based on statistics, a typical farmer earns P4,500 a month, which is below the poverty line. That is why we also encourage agri-farms to become a farm school and get the support of TESDA. Like if you have 25 students, TESDA will pay you P100,000 monthly,” she said.