Promotion of high-value crops to meet local, exports demand urged

Eminent economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas has underscored the need for the Philippines to promote high-value crops like vegetables and fruits to meet domestic demand and boost exports.

“The Philippines is already become exceptionally a major power in pineapples and bananas but we can replicate our success in those two products –in many other high value crops, whether they be fruits like mangoes, avocado, durian; or a wide range of vegetables that we produce in the Philippines– first for our own consumption and for exports,” Villegas said during the roadshow webinar organized by The Center for Research and Communication (CRC).

He said the country has vast underproductive hectares of agricultural land which can be devoted to sectors which are low in productivity and can be helped by capital investments.

For one, Villegas said coconut areas can be appropriate for intercropping of cacao, coffee, and all types of fruit trees.

Agribusiness expert Dr. Roland Dy said the nationwide vegetable consumption is only 40 kilos per capita which is “very, very low” compared to that of some of the country’s neighbors.

“To those who have money and who want to be active in the market, you can locate your small vertical farm around Metro Manila and maybe produce 10 crops of vegetables a year,” Dy said.

He said Philippine agricultural exports have been underperforming, and are heavily dependent on bananas, coconut products, and pineapple and products.

In 2019, Dy said agricultural exports reached USD6.7 billion; while imports led by wheat, soybean oil/cake meal, rice, and milk and dairy products, hit USD14.5 billion.

“The Philippines for the past 20 years has been an import dependent country compared to our neighbors like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. So we have got a lot to work on given our natural resources, we have to work on many things,” he added.

However, Dy said exports of coconut products are now diversified, which also include non-traditional goods like coconut water, coconut milk, coconut powder, coconut cream, and virgin coconut oil.

“There is a big potential for this provided you can manage a certain scale of plantation because you have to replant. So it’s something to grow, it’s something to diversify because there are now products like coconut jelly, coconut candy, way beyond coconut oil,” he said.

Dy also identified coffee as a growing market in the Philippines with the proliferation of many coffee shops.

“The demand has reached 130,000 tons of bean equivalent. (A) large part is supplied by imports from Vietnam and Indonesia while local supply is around 30 percent,” he said.

“It’s a potential not only the so-called ordinary coffee but (also) the higher-end coffee given the increasing income of the millennials, the BPO (business process outsourcing), and urbanization,” he added.

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