TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan: As Batanes province becomes more popular with local and foreign tourists and its population continue to grow, the Provincial Government goes to the drawing board to arrive at a food self-sufficiency status within the next 10 years.
This came after the Provincial Agriculture Office reported a wide disparity between food consumption and food production in the area.
Batanes Senior Agriculturist Cesar Doroteo Hostallero said the government has no other choice but to prepare for a population growth and tourist influx in the following decade, beginning next year.
“At the moment, the production doesn’t meet the food demands of the populace. The provincial government has admitted this. There is also a slow transfer of agricultural and fishery technologies among the islanders,” he added.
Hostallero cited a recently released agricultural production report where the Provincial Agriculturist reported “an imbalance in production versus demand on some major agricultural food products in the province.”
It is odd, he also said, when 75 percent of the 75 percent of the residents are farmers and fisherfolks.
“We are bullish in terms of fishery resources, tourism and diverse culture. The province is also known to have the lowest poverty incidence and among the richest places in the country but farmers are continually challenged in meeting food demands because of the increasing population and the influx of investors and tourists,” Hostallero said.
In a recently released agricultural production report, the annual palay production of Batanes was only at 104.43 metric tons when its consumption rate was placed at 1,946.56 metric tons. Vegetable production was also low with only 399.76 metric tons produced against a consumption rate of 642.21 metric tons.
The report also revealed that the production sufficiency level is “very low” with palay production at only 5.36 percent and vegetable at 62.29 percent. The only exception was for corn and garlic, which has the highest sufficiency level at 205.71 and 115.26 percent respectively.
“In our study, the reason for a low food production in the province, particularly on rice and vegetables is due to unpleasantly cold and wet weather as well as the type of soil the province has. It lacks the material contents good enough for agricultural production,” Hostallero said.
The other factor affecting low agricultural production is the use or categorization of the province’s land resources. Records show that the Batanes group of islands has an agricultural land area of 4,320 hectares and a forestland of 5,463 hectares. Only 31 hectares is actually used for residential and commercial purposes while the remaining 10,389 hectares is already classified as unproductive areas or grassland.
Hostallero said the Agriculture Office already introduced several interventions to increase the food sufficiency level, including a year-round planting scheme, distribution of high-yielding vegetable and rice varieties, soil nutrient management strategies and seed-saving strategies. Farmers are also sent to capability-building trainings and given financial assistance by other government agencies.
“These agencies have introduced Gulayan sa Barangay, intensive garlic and legume production as well as sweet potato production in support of the ‘Food Always in the Home’ or FAITH program of the provincial government,” he added.
To arrive at a holistic approach to the problem, Hostallero said the provincial agriculture office has included in its tourism programs the agriculture sector, which may include tours to technology-demo and organic farms, and the hands-on Ivatan farming experience and pick-and-pay promo for tourists.