A UNIVERSITY professor based in Nueva Vizcaya has attributed the ailing citrus industry in the province to “lack of management” of the citrus plantations, particularly in the upland town of Kasibu.
In a radio program aired over the Catholic-owned dwRV local radio, Dr. Elbert Sana, Research Director at the Nueva Vizcaya State University, said, “It is not about the pests but rather the lack of management of citrus plantations in the province.”
The Agricultural Research on Citrus Production (ARCP) in the Municipality of Kasibu has also found several factors contributing to the decline of the citrus industry in the municipality.
Eduardo Lamsis of the Kasibu Municipal Agriculture Office said that based on the consolidated traders’ data, citrus production peaked prior to 2008 where the annual average yield was at 19.2 million kilos.
However, Lamsis said that a dramatic statistical drop of 70 percent was recorded in 2011 with 5.7 million kilos of citrus and further declined with the lowest yield of only 240,000 kilos in 2015.
Lamsis said the primary reason for the low production of citrus in 2011 up to the present is due to pest and disease infestation, contrary to the claims of anti-mining advocates, who believe that the disease was a product of mining operation in the town.
More than 2,000 hectares of citrus plantations in Kasibu town alone have been neglected and affected by a deadly disease and may threaten more plantations of not addressed.
In Nueva Vizcaya, aside from the presence of unregulated small-scale mining, the town of Kasibu is host to the Australian Didipio Copper and Gold project, while Quezon town hosts the British Runruno Gold-Molybdenum project under a contract with the national government.
According to Sana, the decline in citrus production in Nueva Vizcaya is due to insects and bacterial diseases, confirming the findings of ARCP.
The findings of different group of researchers in Kasibu town, which is the center of citrus production in Nueva Vizcaya and the Cagayan Valley (Region 2), is that the trees are infested with what experts call a “citrus greening disease.”
Experts from the Department of Agriculture said the disease is capable of destroying about 50 percent of harvestable citrus fruits, thus its spread could potentially lead to the eventual death of the citrus industry in the province if nothing is done to solve the situation.
They said citrus plants experience the sudden yellowing of their leaves, which results in the poor quality of its fruits as well as low production.
Citrus farmers who call the fruit disease “huang long bin” said that if it is not contained at the soonest possible time, it would affect thousands of hectares of citrus plantations not only in Kasibu town but the entire province.
Lamsis said other reasons for the losses in citrus production in the province are incomplete cultural management inputs and unfavorable weather conditions.
”The situation was aggravated by farmers’ abandonment of citrus farms due to low prices of farm produce and very high agricultural input requirements,” Lamsis said.
Also, a shift to other livelihoods such as employment and ventures for business was high, he added.
To revive the ailing citrus production in the province, Sana said the construction of the Philippine Citrus Research Development Center at NVSU is ongoing with a budget of P17 million.
He said that the P27-million Citrus Research for Development program in Cagayan Valley (Region 2) is for the establishment of four projects.
These are value chain analysis of citrus in the region, gene bank and data base profile of citrus genetic resources, establishment of quality planting materials production system for citrus in Nueva Vizcaya, and development of pest and diseases management systems for sustainable citrus production in the region.
The country contributes around 163,090 metric tons or 16 percent of the world’s total citrus produce, the bulk of which is from the province of Nueva Vizcaya.