by Sheila Mae Toreno & Myleen Subang

ILOILO CITY- “The Philippines is in good position to be at the forefront of discussion about the mango sector worldwide. Mango is not our national fruit for nothing, our very own mangoes especially the ‘carabao’ variety are renowned as one of the best in the world,” said Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chairperson Cynthia A. Villar.

Villar, who graced the 20th National Mango Congress in Jordan, Guimaras on May 30, stressed that mango remains to be one of the most important crops in the Philippines based on the export volume and value.

“I really support the growth of the local mango industry because about 70 percent of the mango farms are owned by small growers who only have 5 to 25 mango trees on the average,” she added.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) holds this national confab in collaboration with the Philippine Mango Industry Foundation, Inc. (PMIF), Provincial Government of Guimaras, Guimaras Mango Growers and Producers Development Cooperative, and the Provincial Agricultural and Fishery Council of Guimaras.

According to PMIF President Virginia dela Fuente, there are about 8.5 million mango trees in the Philippines. “In 2011, we had reached up to 1 million metric tons or 1 billion kilograms production volume that is around P50 billion income excluding the processing and value adding.”

However, the Philippine Statistical Authority declared that mango production in the country dropped by 10.1 percent from 30.58 thousand metric tons to 27.49 thousand metric tons during the fourth quarter of 2017.

DA with various industry partners is currently implementing the 5-year National Mango Industry Roadmap to regain the country’s position in innovation in production technology, postharvest product development, and export marketing in order to consistently supply safe and high-quality products.

As DA’s development partner, PMIF is requesting the government for P1.5 billion fund every year for five years for the rehabilitation of undernourished and unproductive mango trees nationwide.

“The rehabilitation program will focus on the pruning and fertilization of mango trees,” Dela Fuente added.

Low yielding trees, Cecid fly infestation, postharvest losses, high cost of inputs and limited access to resources are the challenges confronting the mango industry.

According to DA Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit Evelyn Laviña, the roadmap targets to increase the production by 3 percent per year and to attain 974,198 metric tons by 2022 where farmers could achieve 5.5 metric tons per hectare average yield.

To enable farmers’ productivity and profitability, DA will provide financing support through the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program and the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF).

“We are devising PLEA packages for every commodity. For mango growers and contractors, we are proposing for P60,000 production loan per hectare. This will be used to finance the pruning, fertilization and induction of 100 trees at P600 per tree,” explained Laviña.

PLEA is a non-collateralized credit facility with only six percent interest rate per year.

However, under ACEF loaning program, individual farmers and farmers associations can borrow up to P1 million and P5 million, respectively.

“The loaning under ACEF will be coursed through Land Bank of the Philippines but the requirements will not be as many as usual,” she continued.

Aside from financing, DA is also pushing for crop insurance where mango growers can avail of indemnity claims from the Philippine Crop Insurance for production losses caused by intermittent weather and Cecid fly infestation.

The undersecretary also urged the growers to adopt Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for mango production to ensure the whole year round production and supply of export quality Philippine mangoes.

“We will also be putting up 40 learning sites for mango production particularly in areas with high production beginning next year,” Laviña said