TAGGED as the “Munggo Capital of the Philippines,” San Mateo in Isabela is where farmers plant the mungbean after harvesting rice.
San Mateo Mayor Gregorio Pua explained that during summer time many rice farms in Isabela are idle while waiting for the irrigation water to come but, the cultivators in his town are busy harvesting their mungbean from their lands.
“Farmers here are practicing the munggo after rice cropping system for years now. They have been doing this primarily to augment their income. It has been proven as one way to attain sustainable agriculture,” he said.
Pua said since mungbean is a drought-tolerant and low-input crop, farmers in the town plant the crop either before or just after harvesting their rice crop during the dry season.
Mungbean, also known as balatong in Ilocano, is a short maturing crop that after 30 to 45 days can be subject to their first priming.
In a hectare, San Mateo farmers said they can earn P25,000 to P50,000 per harvest and can harvest two or three times per cropping.
“Munggo farming is an additional source of income among our farmer constituents and being a cash crop, it is often regarded as ‘black gold,’ creating employment for farm laborers especially during the harvest,” Pua said.
The mayor also noted that with the flourishing mungbean production and processing industry, the municipality has also earned its reputation as the agro-ecological destination in the Cagayan Valley region.
“San Mateo town is so lucky to have been declared as an agro-ecological destination and Munggo Capital of the Philippines because majority of our rice lands are used for munggo production after rice harvest. This way, we have alternative livelihood for our farmers,” he said.
Pua said the town has been producing tons of munggo products right after every rice harvest with a variety of munggo by-products already developed and being sold in Region 2 (Cagayan Valley).
“We process and turn our munggo into several products like canton or noodles, coffee, chips, polvoron, native cakes, bread, among others, with munggo as main raw ingredient,” he said.
The Isabela local government unit and government agencies in the province have also been providing assistance to the municipality for mungbean production and processing, of which the technologies are also shared with farmers.
“With these, the municipality became a major supplier of munggo chips and munggo blend to the Department of Education in Isabela for their feeding program activities while other munggo processed products are also sold in nearby provinces,” Pua said.
Also, planting mungbean can allow farmers to save on fertilizers for the next rice cropping season because mungbean is a nitrogen-fixing plant and can restore soil fertility.
A study conducted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) shows that rotating rice with other crops removes the pests’ food source and reverses their population buildup. It said this technique is effective against pests for which rice is the preferred host and helps control gall midge, stem borers, white grubs, termites, planthoppers, seed bugs and army worms.
IRRI also suggests that to be more effective, the rotation must be practiced in synchronized plantings over a cluster area and should include a nonrice crop outside the grass family.
Today, there are at least 7,000 hectares of rice farms rotated with mungbean in San Mateo, making Isabela the top mungbean-producing province with 6,260.04 metric tons harvested in 2018 from an area of 12,326.4 hectares, according to records of the Philippine Statistics Authority.