The growing Philippine Vegetable Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities

With the enactments of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) in 1997, the Philippine agricultural sector has been modernizing rapidly, establishing itself as the center of the country’s economy- with a 25% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution and employing 505 of the labor force. However, the industry as a whole continues to exist as units of small, individually-functioning farms, most of which are producing fruits and vegetables for home consumption or as small-time alternative income source.

Vegetables as part of Filipino subsistence, be it as food or as source of livelihood cannot be underminded. All 43 kinds and 250 lesser known species of Philippine vegetables are important sources of minerals, vitamins, fiber and proteins. In the crop category, vegetable ranks second to ornamentals in terms of income generated per unit area and time. Moreover it is widely used as an intercrop for coonut and fruits trees, and as a components of other cropping systems. Ironically, per capita consumption is quite low at 39 kilograms considering that the recommended intake is 69 kilograms.

Local Production

Vegetable production in the Philippines is highly seasonal, with the bulk of production coming from Ilocos (19.05%) CAR (19%), Southern Tagalog (12.74%) Central Luzon (9.28), Western Visayas (6.44%0 from October to November.

In 1997, vegetables contributed 8% to the country’s total agricultural output. From 1990 to 1997, it registered a 13.33% production growth, from 4.5 million metric otns (M MT) in 1990 to 5.1 M MT in 1997.

In the same year, with only 5% of the country’s total agricultural area devoted to it, the vegetable industry contributed 26 billion to the economy and accounted for 9.4% of the total agricultural production.

Beyond rice and corn production, the Philippine agricultural Industry is focused in meeting export commitments. This policy is supported by the government and is also the reason for the increased production of vegetable crops such as eggplant, onion, tomato , garlic squash and cabbage, Among these crops, eggplant leads in value of production with 1.8 M in 1999from just 0.6 M in 1990. The remaining four ranks in this order: Onion 1.1 M, tomato 1.03 M, garlic 0.9 M, cabbage 0.6 M and squash 0.5 M.

In terms of volume, eggplant still ranks first (28%) followed by tomato (22%), squash (18%), onion (15%) cabbage(14%) and garlic (3%).

Compared to Asian and world production, local vegetable production is relatively low. Eggplant averaged a yield of 9.95 t/ha in 1997 which is only half of Asia’s average yield of 15.91 t/ha and the world ‘s 16.17 t/ha. However, our eggplant yield fared better than Thailand (6.19t/ha), Indonesia (3.48t/ha) and North Korea (1.67t/ha) The same trend goes for tomato which registered an average yield of 9.73 t/ha in 1999, onion (7.18 t/ha), and garlic (2.6 t/ha).

Export Opportunities

As mentioned earlier, the Philippines is well into exporting. Vegetables in fresh/ chilled , dried and processed forms are exported. From 1993 to 1996 the value of vegetable exports rose considerably from 25 million dollars in 1994 to 45 million dollars in 1996 only to drop at 31 million dollars in 1997.

In 1997, onion was the number one export in terms of value at 10.5 million dollars followed by shallot at 7 million dollar. Main importers included Indonessia 55%, Malaysia 22%, and Singapore 21%. Another major export was asparagus at 5660 MT. This was exported to Japan in 1996 and registered a profit or value of 13.7 million dollars. Other exports included garlic, beans, peas, tomato and vegetable seeds.

A large amount of tomato, pepper, eggplant , melons and watermelons are also exported. A side from these, the country can also capitalize on the export of squash, sword bean, white gourd, sitao and radish which are also gaining ground internationally. However, the country also imports a lot of vegetables, oftentimes cancelling its gains in export. In 1996, total vegetable import exceeded exports at 79.8 million dollars. The bulk of these imports consisted of preserved and processed vegetables, dried, fresh, and chilled products. Moreover, the country’s vegetable seed requirement, specifically onion seeds, crucifers, and other semitemperate crops are also imported from USA, Japan, the Netherlands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Improving overall industry status

Although vegetables have a high potential of contributing to our farmers’ income , the government has given little priority to this industry. This, coupled with existing problems such as the erratic supply and low quality of produce, poor farm to market roads, inadequate storage facilities, limited access to reliable market information and lack of entrepreneurial skills among growers and cooperatives obstruct the industry’s potential in the world market.

Through BAR, a network solely dedicated to improving the vegetable industry was created. The vegetable network, which is composed of experts from UP Los Banos (UPLB) Benguet State University (BSU) , Visayas state College of Agriculture (ViSCA) and Central Luzon State University (CLSU), coordinates all research, development and extension efforts pertaining to vegetables. Likewise, a National Integrated RDE agenda and Program (NIRDEAP) was drafted to state specific projects for the network.

Through the NIRDEAP, several industry goals were set to guide the network in improving present vegetable situation such as : a stable vegetable supply to minimize fluctuations in market prices through increased off-season production; reduced postharvest losses by 20% increased per capita vegetable consumption to 60 kg. Granting these are achieved , the country is assured of a competititve edge in the world market.

Sources:Vegetable NIRDEAO; The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Market in the Philippines by the Team Canada Market Research Center and the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service

Source: BAR DIGEST April June 2001 Issue, by Thea Kristina M. Pabuayon



Source: BAR TODAY April June 2001

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