DA-12 to convert 74,800 hectares into organic farms

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 15 May) – The Department of Agriculture in Region 12 in targeting to convert within the next two years around 74,800 hectares of agricultural areas in the region into organic farms.

Enriqueto Natividad, DA Region 12’s regional technical director for research and regulations, said Thursday the expansion activities are underway in parts of the region’s four provinces and five cities that were earlier identified as viable sites for the organic farming program.

“Region 12 has a total agricultural area of 1,497,083 hectares and if we can convert five percent of it, we will have at least 74,800 hectares of organic farm areas in two years,” Natividad said.

He said they are currently on track and fully committed to achieve such target before the end of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s term in 2016.

Natividad said the initiative is mainly in compliance with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, which institutionalized the adoption and propagation of organic agriculture in the country.

RA 10068 was authored by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, a former congressional representative of Quezon province’s second district.

For this year, the official said the DA central office has allotted around P20 million for the expansion of organic farm areas and other related activities in the region.

In 2013, he said DA-12 spent around P21 million for the establishment of vermicomposting facilities and trading posts for organic farm products.

He said the agency’s organic agriculture program team was able to organize 47 local technical committees in parts of the region.

Natividad said they had endorsed 33 organic farming-related project proposals that were completed through the write-shops that they conducted for their partner local government units (LGUs) and civil society organizations.

He said they sponsored trainings and seminars that were attended by LGUs, non-government organizations and people’s organizations that availed of projects under the organic agriculture program.

Natividad said DA-12 assisted the Tupi Balangon Growers’ Association based in Tupi town in South Cotabato to resume its shipment of organically-produced Balangon banana variety to Japan.

The cooperative is currently exporting 729 metric tons or approximately 16,200 kilograms per week of Balangon banana that are valued at P12.2 million.

Natividad said their activities for the remaining months of the year are focused on the production of organic corn and vegetables like soybeans, legumes and cowpeas as well as the growing of chicken, swine and goats using organic feeds.

He said they have assigned their research outreach stations and breeding centers to spearheaded these initiative.