AGRI-INPUTS DISTRIBUTION. Another batch of farmers in Ilocos Norte receives various agricultural inputs at the Provincial Agriculture Office on Friday (Dec. 9, 2022). The provincial government also established a hotline where farmers can call or text for assistance. (Courtesy of Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte)

LAOAG CITY – Organized farmers associations in various parts of Ilocos Norte have received one of the biggest shares of the pie this year with the release of agricultural inputs to boost their productivity.

Funded by the Ilocos Norte government mostly from its share in the tobacco excise tax, farmers here have so far been granted PHP15,369,958 worth of assistance this week, according to Sustainable Development Center head Luz Ortal on Saturday.

Agnes Asuncion, a farmer-entrepreneur from Barangay Pias, Currimao, Ilocos Norte told the Philippine News Agency in an interview on Saturday that she is excited to try the new grass cutter given to them as active members of the Ilocos Norte Dragon Fruit Association.

Aside from a grass cutter to aid farmers in cleaning their farms instead of using a traditional bolo or “tabas” which takes a longer time, Asuncion said they were also given hundreds of organic fertilizers and insecticides to improve their harvest during the 10th batch of agricultural inputs distribution at the Provincial Agriculture Office on Friday afternoon.

Last July, several dragon fruit growers in the province, including Asuncion, personally sought the help of the Ilocos Norte government to help them contain a growing pest infestation in their plantations.

“Our dragon fruit plants were attacked by anthracnose and canker which affected our harvest this year,” said Mildred Dacuycuy, operations manager of Refmad dragon fruit farm in Barangay Paayas in Burgos, in another interview.

Anthracnose, caused by a number of the Colletotrichum species, is one of the major diseases affecting dragon fruit plants, damaging stems, flowers, and fruits, while dragon fruit canker, caused by the fungus Neoscytalidium dimidiatum, weakens and kills the plant's branches.

With the help of the provincial government, Dacuycuy and other dragon fruit growers look forward to a better harvest next year.

Mango and corn growers in the province were extended similar support to improve their harvests.

Though the "Agri Ka Dito Hotline” meant to help farmers and fisherfolks recover, they may call 0916-4419914 or 0969-2905489, email [email protected] or visit the Provincial Agriculture Office in Barangay 2 here or the Sustainable Development Center at the provincial capitol to request for crop assistance in the form of inputs, marketing, and transportation; irrigation such as reservoirs, dams, and water impounding systems; provision of livestock and related services; fingerlings and fishery paraphernalia; and insurance, among others.

As agriculture remains the backbone of the local economy, Ilocos Norte has invested around PHP2 billion over the past three years to provide all-out support, like land preparation, crop production, marketing, and farm mechanization, including irrigation support. (PNA)