LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The municipal government admitted that the sustainable production of quality strawberries is reportedly being threatened by ongoing land conversion in various parts of the municipality amidst efforts to save the lucrative industry.
Municipal Agriculturist Nida Organo stated that if not for the vast track of land owned by the State-run Benguet State University (BSU) which remains to be for institutional use, the strawberry production area in the municipality would have been affected because of the rapid conversion of agricultural lands to commercial areas.
Aside from the ongoing land conversion, she claimed that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic also significantly impacted the production of strawberries that caused numerous farmers to lose their source of livelihood.
From the pre-pandemic production of 11.44 metric tons of strawberries in 2020, this dropped to only more than 7 metric tons in 2021 before bouncing back to 11.94 metric tons last year.
Organo claimed that the proposed elevated strawberry production area is highly recommended for the benefit of farmers in the strawberry farm because of the experienced better production and lesser exposure to pests and diseases, especially that the farm is prone to perennial flooding during the rainy season.
Last year, the municipal government earmarked some P1.27 million from the annual budget of the municipal agriculture office to help in the sustainable development and improvement of strawberry production in the municipality with some P500,000 allocated for the importation of virus-free strawberry runners to replace the existing ones.
As per the registry of basic sectors in agriculture (RSBA), there are more than 52 hectares of land in the different parts of the municipality being cultivated for strawberry production with some 37 hectares within the property of the State-run Benguet State University while 15 hectares are situated in elevated villages in the locality.
At present, the local government in close coordination with the strawberry farmers are now experimenting the production of the Snow White strawberry variety as an alternative variety while awaiting the new batch of virus-free strawberry runners.
She said that there is an increasing number of strawberry farmers who are now producing the white strawberry variety which is much similar in taste to the red variety that is why efforts are underway to mass produce the available runners for distribution to farmers who are interested to plant the new variety.
However, the buying price of the white strawberry variety is approximately P1,000 per kilo which is more expensive compared to the per kilo of the red variety which is around P300 to 400 during the peak season of production.
Residents and visitors wanting to join the strawberry picking of the white variety can do so in the assigned plantation area at the Strawberry Farm for them to have a firsthand experience of picking the different strawberry variety.