NEWSFLASH


Daet, Camarines Norte, June 25, 2002 (STAR) By Celso T. Amo - Herman Soriano, 46, of Barangay Calasgasan here is one of the happiest farmers these days. Aside from his coconut, he is also earning from his pineapple.

"Napakalaking tulong sa amin itong pinya," said the construction worker as well as his 45-year-old wife, Lolita, who said they were able to send all their five children to school from growing pineapples.

He said pineapple is sensitive to weeds, limiting the growth and making it necessary to spray herbicide thrice per planting season. He also applies fertilizer and other chemicals for early flowering.

The big ones he sells at P2.50 a piece while the small ones at P.50 to roving buyers. Total cost for the one hectare is about P35,000. He says he earns from P60,000 to P70,000 per harvest.

"Walang nalulugi sa pinyahan kapag tama lang ang alaga," said 72-year-old Federico Mancimpo of Barangay Pagsangahan, Basud town, Camarines Norte.

He has been in the business at his one-hectare land located along the highway national road for the past 15 years.

Mancimpo said he spent about P15,000 to plant some 4,500 suckers last March on his half a hectare lot. "Baka kumita tayo galing P25,000 hanggang P30,000 Febrero sa susunod na taon," he said in the dialect.

The barangay council has been the main conduit of the fertilizer support program of the provincial government. He said he receives two sacks of fertilizer from barangay captain Rogelio Basis every cropping season.

"At wala akong magagawa kung bumababa kaunti ang presyo ng pinya kung sabay-sabay ang ani," Mancimpo told The STAR during a visit and interview to his pineapple plantation which is about eight-kilometers from the capital town.

Production

Growing pineapples started in the towns of Talisay and San Lorenzo Ruiz in the 1950s.

The pineapple variety called Hawaii is heavy, popular, and good for canning.

But the Queen or Formosa is the sweetest. The native Philippine Red or Red Spanish variety which has a small fruit is solely grown for its fiber.

"Here the Queen variety reigns," Rodolfo Salamero, the provincial agriculturist, said.

The growers say the Queen variety is adaptable to the soil and climate, making it the most popular cash-crop today in the province’s 12 municipalities and 282 barangays.

The industry is an important source of income as farmers are also aware of its export potential.

But as more growers are attracted to the crop, there has to be a standard to determine the quality of the pineapple produced, said Salamero. At present, growers simply divide the big from the small ones.

"Another factor that contributes in making the Daet pineapple one of the sweetest in the world is the abundance of potassium in the soil," Salamero explained as he compared the taste of the same variety planted in Camarines Sur.

Other varieties planted in other places are not so sweet compared to the ones planted here. A hectare planted with pineapple brings an average harvest of 13 to 15 tons of pineapple.

The Department of Agriculture said that 92 percent of the pineapple in Bicol comes from Camarines Norte which supplies from 30,000 to 50,000 metric tons per cycle of 12 to 15 months. The financial assistance of the Land Bank of the Philippines amounting to P6 million encouraged farmers to shift to pineapple in the 1980s.

Average cost of planting pineapple per hectare is about P20,000 with 20,000 to 25,000 pineapple plantles or suckers per hectare at less than 10 percent pilferage. If the pineapple farmer harvests about 18,000 pineapples per hectare and sell it at P5 a piece, he will at least get P90,000 per hectare per harvest. First class pineapple is sold at P4 a piece to whole-sellers.

To be Land area

Camarines Norte ranks fourth nationwide in terms of area planted to pineapple. Bukidnon is number one with 16,000 hectares, followed by South Cotabato at 10,100 and Cavite, 5,000.

By-products

Aside from the fruit, pineapple by-products include fibers which are used as raw material for making barong as well as hand-made paper.

The fiber products are classified as loose linawan or fine fiber, the loose bastos or coarse fiber. Polypinia fiber is made from blending polyester fiber and pure linawan pineapple fiber.

Food products are also being explored using the fruit like pineapple pie, jam and tart, according to Maribel de Vera, head of the Technology Livelihood and Development Center (TLDC). In fact, samples were given to visitors at the display center at Bagasbas Beach here during the President’s visit last June 15.

Pineapple producers in Basud once tried to produce pineapple juice in cans but folded up because it cannot cope with production cost.

Market

Last week the Dole Tropifresh Philippines and the Basud Federation of Pineapple Growers has forged an agreement to ship a container van of fresh pineapple to Japan last week.

The agreement was lauded by the local government, the agriculture department, the Pineapple Development Council as well as the Basud Federation of Pineapple Growers. It was signed at the Pineapple Congress last month at the Basud National High School.

Dole sent two representatives – Rodel Aninciado and Don Abara – to assess the industry. Both expressed the same opinion that the pineapple grown the province fits the snack pine variety the company intends to export to Japan. They explained to the growers the importance of quality in the product such as color, ripeness, shape and supply.

Dole will also provide growers the technology on proper harvesting, handling and packaging of the fruit to maintain its quality. But for products that cannot conform to export standards, Dole will help promote for the local markets.

The initial supply was provided by Romeo Sarmiento of Barangay Pagsangahan in Basud town. The pineapple was priced at P4.73 per piece of which P0.25 was given to the pineapple federation.

"This partnership to export Queen pineapple to Japan signals a new market opportunities for the industry," said Fe D. Laysa, regional director of the Department of Agriculture in Bicol.

Laysa said growers can use available technologies to increase production as well as produce bigger and sweeter off-season fruits. She stressed that the agriculture department will continue to support the pineapple industry through research, marketing, credit assistance, technology generation, trainings, technical and production assistance.

Three years ago growers supplied Five Star hotels in Metro Manila with fresh pineapple. But the high cost of transporting the goods as well as their demand to have fruit peeler ate most of the profit.

The fruit is sold in Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon and as far as in Balintawak and Divisoria.

Problems

Harvesting on the peak months from June, July and August has another disadvantage.

With large supply the price of the fruit goes down, making growers get a break-even.

With the Queen’s as a fast riper, growers are forced to sell it at P4 a piece which whole buyers sell at three piece for P20. At the Daraga public market, the peeled fruit is sold at P10 a piece.

Growers complain that middlemen are making a killing here.

"If we have a canning factory or ready export market, the problem of over-supply is solved," said provincial agriculturist Rodolfo Salamero.

Another threat comes from the mealy bug, a whitish coloration on the body of the fruit, which causes the plant to welt. Rodents also like to eat pineapple fruit.

The Queen pineapple has to be eaten within five days after harvest, Salamero explained, because it ripens faster compared to the Hawaii variety which takes about 10 days to fully ripen.

Growing pineapple is all not sweet, though. It’s mortality rate is about 20 percent due to pests, diseases, rodents, coconut debris, and inadequate fertilizer.

Support

President Arroyo during her visit to the capital town June 15 ordered Fe D. Laysa, regional director of the Department of Agriculture to use the agency’s maintenance and other operating expenses of the province to revitalize the pineapple industry.

"Ang mga Intsik naman ay mahilig kumain ng pineapple," said The President in her speech at stage in Bagasbas Beach." "Dapat magbenta tayo ng pinya sa kanila."

The President urged the agriculture department to work with the provincial government to sell pineapple from the province to other countries like Korea and China.

"I’ll hope the people (of Camarines Norte) to continue to plant and cultivate quality pineapple so that in the long run the industry in Daet will be able to compete with other countries in the world market," the President said.

"Ito ay nagpapakita na ang Daet ay may katangi-tanging producto na puwede nating ipagmalaki ito na nga ang piña," the President explained.

"Ang iyong pinya ay ang Queen Formosa pineapple. Itong Queen Formosa pineapple ng Camarines Norte ay sinasabi nila ang pinakamatamis na pinya sa buong mundo."

The President observed that pineapple production has gradually dropped, prompting Mayor Tito Sarion to ask for technical support from the Department of Agriculture to make the province the number one producer of pineapple by-products.

But the President told local officials not just to focus on selling pineapple by-products but processed products.

The provincial government has been extending financial support for the purchase of fertilizer for the thousands of pineapple growers in the province, said Salamero.

The Queen pineapple is sweet, no doubt, and you can eat a lot of it.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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