SANTA ANA, Cagayan: For many years, farmers in this coastal town would plant row after row of pineapple plantlets across small area of land. They manually weed and fertilize them every three or four weeks, and wait.
After a year later, Santa Ana pineapple farmers particularly in the Cagayan Freeport found crops of diseased plants instead of the plump, juicy, sweet fruit they expected.
They said their pineapples were either with high water levels, low sugar content or high acidity while the fruits are too small to sell, and at most, the small farm would lose 40-50 percent of its crop.
That was in 2013 when pineapple farmers in this northeasternmost town of Cagayan started organizing themselves as a cooperative in partnership with Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), also known as the Cagayan Freeport.
CEZA has recognized the potential of this product that could also be traded in nearby towns and perhaps in other provinces nationwide. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Data the Philippines ranks third in pineapple production, with Costa Rica is first while Brazil is second.
Created under Republic Act 7922 or Cagayan Special Economic Zone Act of 1995 CEZA is tasked to manage and supervise the development of the 54,118 hectares Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport which included the town of Santa Ana.
On March 22, 2013, the Santa Ana Pineapple Farmer Growers Producer Cooperative was registered with the Cooperative Development Authority in collaboration with CEZA for the community to venture in pineapple production and processing.
Started with only 32 members in 2013 it now has 76 local farmers that make cooperative’s pineapple production become a lucrative enterprise for the local community.
Currently, the local farmers are tilling 46 hectares vast land along Barangay Zinungan where 90 percent of the planting area is located and other villages in the town exclusively delegated to pineapple production.
Joyce Marie Jayme-Calimag, CEZA public relations chief, said majority of the farmers still use the traditional smooth cayenne pineapple variety.
Particularly popular in Spain, this is one of the most widely grown pineapple varieties in the world. Its juicy pulp is light yellow and has an intense flavor fruit.
“We have already identified pineapple crop as a promising product that could give income and livelihood opportunities to the local farmers in Cagayan Freeport,” Calimag said.
Supporting the cooperative in their pineapple venture are the Department of Science and Technology, Cagayan State University, Gonzaga Campus and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Together with CEZA, they have assisted the cooperative from institutionalization, technical assistance, skills enhancement, product development to marketing.