Philippines: Government mulls moratorium on pineapple and banana farm expansion

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The Region 10 office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking at a two-pronged approach of imposing a moratorium on the expansion of commercial crop plantations and strengthening upland rice programs to attain food sufficiency in Northern Mindanao.

Banana and pineapple, two of the top ten agricultural export commodities, are two commercial crops that will be affected by the moratorium. In 2013, Region 10 produced 1.74 million metric tons of bananas and 1.34 MT of pineapple, most of which were shipped out to the foreign market.

Several rice fields have already been converted to pineapple plantations, affecting rice sufficiency in the region, Cora A. Dumayaca, DA 10’s focal person for rice, said.

For her part, Precy S. Akut, DA 10’s focal person for organic agriculture, said the planned moratorium, specifically within Bukidnon province, is also part of initiatives to promote eco-friendly farming.

“I think the local government units are aware of the effects of the chemicals from these plantations. The Department of Agriculture is
promoting [farming] that is ecologically friendly and good for the people,”
Ms. Akut said.

Organic Farming

"To be certified as an organic agricultural producer does not mean a 100% organic agricultural environment," said Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa
Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) Advocacy Officer Geonathan T. Barro.

“There are basic standards according to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. One standard, for example, is a one-meter
buffer zone. After the one meter from the border you can already certify the produce as organic. These standards are there so that chemicals used
in the surrounding farms do not affect the organic farm,”
Mr. Barro explained.

Meanwhile, international non-government organization Greenpeace, which held a media forum on ecological agriculture here recently, said that
the organization is heading towards a stronger campaign for a policy on ecological agriculture.

Daniel M. Ocampo, sustainable agriculture and genetic engineering campaigner for Greenpeace, stressed the organization does acknowledge
that promoting ecological agriculture does not mean doing away with commercial plantations.

“If you want self-sufficiency, you have to lessen hectarage for commercial crops and focus on providing staple [food] for the people,” he said.

Greenpeace is also pushing for a more assorted staple food list as well as a return to indigenous rice production instead of developing new rice

“Why don’t we diversify our staple food instead of devoting a large amount of money on a research whose outcome we are not yet sure of?” Mr.
Ocampo said.