PNoy eyes intercropping to augment coco farmers’ income

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) – President Benigno Aquino III claimed that the country has achieved strengthening of the agriculture sector, citing the introduction of intercropping as a strategy initiated in the coconut industry.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address Monday afternoon, he lamented the traditional way coconut was planted: farmers wait seven years for the coconut tree to bear fruit.

“We have the potential to vastly increase the income of this sector if we can foster a culture that truly encourages hard work and productivity. The solution: intercropping,” he added after citing the reduction of rice importation as one of the key achievements of his administration in the agriculture sector.

Aquino said the government has already begun laying down initiatives for the project in 2012 with 5,500 hectares of land for intercropping in 90 different locations throughout the country. The program covered 10,000 farmers.

He cited that for 2013 they set a target of additional 434 sites for coconut intercropping.

Bukidnon provincial agriculturist Alson Quimba said intercropping is already practiced in the province. He said one of Bukidnon’s coconut farmers from Dangcagan town is competing in a national farming competition with his diversification of his coconut plantation.

Quimba said that in Bukidnon’s coconut farms, planting banana and cacao at the second height level and ginger at the third layer is ideal.

But he clarified that success of intercropping is not absolute – it depends on spacing as lower growth crops need sunlight.

Aquino said the government will help coconut farmers; but in exchange, they will be required to sow different kinds of seeds in between the rows of coconut trees.

“Doing so will raise the frequency of crop harvests, and depending on what they plant, their income will also increase,” he added.

Aquino said if farmers grow only coconuts, they would earn about P20,000 a year per hectare.

But if coffee is added, income could reach about P172,400 a year. If the farmers add bananas, they could earn P102,325 per year. If farmers add cacao, he added, farmers earn extra P89,000 per hectare per year.

“Isn’t that such a huge difference?” he added.

The Philippine Coconut Authority cited among its programs and projects in its website the initiative on farm diversification, which involves growing of “short season and high value crops in between spaces of coconut trees such as corn, peanut, banana, cacao, coffee, pineapple, among others.”

According to the Department of Agriculture website, to respond to the growing demand for coco water abroad, the government has embarked on a renewed effort to sustain the productivity and further increase the incomes of small coconut farmers and their families.

The PCA has started a nationwide coconut planting and replanting program. As of July 31, 2012, some 14.6 million seed nuts were planted, accounting for 71 percent of last year’s total target.

The PCA also set to fertilize up to 25 million coconut trees in 2013 and to pursue the intercropping project dubbed as Kasaganaan sa Niyugan ay Kaunlaran ng Bayan (KAANIB).

According to the site, coconut products and by-products remain as the country’s leading agricultural exports, totaling $1.96 billion in 2011, 20 per cent more than 2010’s $1.63 billion. The Philippines export 39 coconut products and by-products to at least 100 countries.

In 2011, the top export was coconut oil worth $1.4 billion, followed by desiccated coconut ($287 million), and coco chemicals ($35 million).

Aquino said in his SONA the agriculture sector grew 3.3 percent in the first three months of 2013.