CLAVERIA, Misamis Oriental—For decades now, majority of farmers in this town relied on vegetable production as their main source of income. This, they attribute to the town’s high elevation and cool climate which is ideal for growing vegetables.

“Going around the community, you can easily notice how vegetable crops, such as cabbage, Chinese cabbage, tomato, sweet pepper and beans grow in abundance,” said Ferdinand Ascuna, chairman of the Panampawan Ecological Assocation for Culture and Economy (PEACE), a small farmers organization.
“Although vegetables thrive well in our community, we realize that we cannot just rely on one commodity if we are to increase our incomes,” he said.
Ascuna recounted the time when cabbage is just bought for as low as P3 a kilo, giving them an income not even enough to cover their transportation cost.
“We need to venture into other high-value crops that can command better price,” he added.

One of the crops they have seen to have marketing potential is lakatan banana as more buyers are coming to their area looking for steady supply. Compared with vegetables, the price of lakatan banana is also relatively stable. Its prevailing farm-gate price is not lower than P20 a kilo.

Moreover, bananas grown in highly elevated areas like Claveria can even command premium price since it was observed to be sweeter and bigger.

“At least five to six buyers are coming every other day to buy lakatan banana from us but we cannot cope with their increasing demand as we only have limited area planted to banana,” he said.

Lakatan is now becoming the Filipinos’ favorite fruit dessert. More canteens and eateries across the country are selling the fruit by piece instead of cluster, making it more affordable for Filipino consumers.

For Ascuna, the increasing demand for lakatan banana is an opportunity that their organization should not miss as this can be transformed into increased income for small farmers. While they have the area suitable for growing lakatan, financial constraint hinders their plan for expansion.

Ascuna said the opportunity to venture into lakatan banana production eventually came when the municipal government endorsed their organization’s proposal to the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office in Cagayan de Oro City. The DA office then endorsed their organization as one of the beneficiaries of the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP).

Under MRDP’s Community Fund for Agricultural Development (CFAD), the PEACE organization received P250,000 which was used to purchase planting materials and farm inputs such as fertilizer and insecticides.

To date, the organization maintains a total of 7.5 hectares of lakatan banana where 15 member-beneficiaries are now tending 500 hills.

Ascuna said once they can have return-on-investment, the next-in-line beneficiaries would also have the chance to avail themselves of the organization’s funding support.

“One thing good with lakatan banana is that we can still grow vegetable as intercrop. While waiting for banana to grow, we continue earning from growing vegetables to supply our daily needs,” Ascuna said.

Anticipating the volume of production that the PEACE organization will be producing in the next two years, the chairman said they are now linking with the local banana industry association for marketing.

“We are also planning to consolidate our produce and let our organization market it on our own so we can earn more,” he enthused.

article by Noel Provido of Business Mirror

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