"LT notes low strawberry production due to climate change"
By: Liza T. Agoot
Business Mirror


LA TRINIDAD, Benguet The production of strawberry is down by about four tons compared to the annual average production recorded by the municipality of La Trinidad.

La Trinidad municipal agriculture officer (MAO) Fely Ticbaan said that the records show that for the months of November to February 2012, which are peak months of strawberry production, an average harvest of 16 to 18 tons was harvested, compared to the previous years' harvest of 21 tons.

She said that when there are rains, which are unpredictable at this time due to climate change, the flowers that become berries fall off, preventing more fruits from being produced.

She said that farmers are doing some remedial measures to prevent the further impact to strawberry production by installing tunnels or low improvised green houses to protect the plants from destruction in case there are rains.

This is apart from the fact that the area being used in growing strawberries is only 66 hectares compared to the 300 hectare area utilized for cutflower and vegetable production in the municipality.

She added that land conversion is another issue to contend with, which is reason why a research is being completed which hopes to confirm the result of an study that allows strawberry to be grown in sloping areas, not just in flat lands. The swamp area, she said is frequently affected by flooding which also affects the production.

Ticbaan added that the tissue cultured or clean runners are continuously being produced and distributed to the farmers, which they use in replacing old plants to allow it to produce more berries.

She added that new varieties are contiuously being imported from other countries to find new and better planting materials.

At present, there are three varieties being produced. They are the sweet charly variery which is favorite among the farmers due to the good color and the sweetness. The festival variety is an alternative which is good for travel due to the harder flesh which could withstand the impact of travel. While it is hard, the color is dark, which the farmers do not like very much.

The camasora is another variety which is however not frequently planted.

Organic strawberries are also now being produced, where a number of planting materials are made available.

Mike Bagtila, president of the strawberry producers association said that the rain is the major enemy of strawberry and climate change has greatly affected their produce.

He revealed that the Department of Agriculture, the MAO and the provincial government are exerting extra effort to help the farmers and maintain production despite the changes in the environment which is a great actor in strawberry production.

He revealed that with the help of the Japan Agri Exchange Council (JAEC), an all season strawberry is presently being developed, which variety could produce fruits all year round. This is a diversion from the usual when strawberries are produced only during the cold months of the year and very few during the other months of the year.

Mayor Greg Abalos also said that they are looking at coming up with a comprehensive study that would give special attention to the improvement of the strawberry production of the municipality, which he added records a dwindling production rate.

Abalos explained that the strawberry festival, which has made a name for the municipality where La Trinidad earned the Guinness title of having the biggest strawberry shortcake in the world is a reason to continue doing innovations and improvements for the production of strawberries, with La Trinidad having to produce the product being its trademark in the world aside from being the vegetable bowl and the rose garden of the country.—