FARM SCHOOL. Farmers in Apayao visit a banana plantation in Flora town on Wednesday (Sept. 14, 2022) as part of requirements for their enrolment in the School-on-the-Air's banana program of the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera. Marfel Joseph Fontanilla, subject matter expert during the farm visit, showed the proper way of enhancing the plants through natural fertilizers and producing clean planting materials to attain quality and yield. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)

CONNER, Apayao – The Department of Agriculture (DA) expects a boost in the production of quality bananas in Apayao with government support pouring in for the industry.

Eleanor Camut, DA-Cordillera’s High-Value Crop Program assistant coordinator, said the School-on-the-Air program on banana farming in Apayao aimed to capacitate the farmers already producing the dollar-earning commodity that is potentially a significant source of income.

The program provides farmers training on integrated pest management, value-adding, macro propagation of clean planting materials, and modern techniques and strategies, among others.

"Banana is still a lucrative business and Apayao has the potential to produce organically-grown produce, sweeter and better in quality,” she said.

DA record shows that in the region, Apayao is the top producer of bananas, yielding 30,523 tons worth PHP38.6 million from 1,123 hectares of plantation in 2021.

“Soon, walang mahirap sa Apayao dahil andito na ang resources. Kailangan lang magsimula na i-adopt ang mga napag-aralan (there will be no poor people in Apayao because the resources are here. You just need to start adopting what was taught),” Camut said.

She said the DA’s Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) has recently turned over the PHP198-million farm-to-market road project that leads to villages identified as producers of high-quality bananas.

“We also have integration and processing facilities to support the industry,” she added.

Camut said Abra and Apayao are already starting to produce bananas.

"We can contribute our production to the international demand for the commodity," she said.

Meanwhile, Roger Pascual, a banana farmer who had been producing at least 2.4 tons of raw bananas every two weeks, said in Ilocano, “The School-on-the-Air provided me with additional knowledge that I can use to boost my production. My farm was visited by the experts and they gave recommendations, which I can adopt because I learned it from the School-on-the-Air.”

Pascual said having learned macro-propagation of seedlings, he could plant more using the idle areas in between the plants, as recommended by the experts.

He sees a better future for his banana venture upon learning about available sources of nutrients that do not entail expenses.

Camut said 80 farmers participated in the School-on-the-Air’s banana program. (PNA)