Cacao tree (File photo by Leilanie Adriano)

LAOAG CITY – The production of coconut and cacao, considered as high-value crops with an extensive area suitable for growing in this northern part of Luzon, promises good fortune among local farmers here.

In its bid to help farmers diversify their source of income, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in Ilocos Region has set a five-day training for farmer-leaders and agricultural extension workers to become the next batch of trainers for the training on coconut-cacao farming system.

The training on May 22-26, 2023 will be held at the ATI satellite center in Barangay Tabug, Batac City, Ilocos Norte.

Engr. Jordan G. Gabur, training specialist of the ATI-Regional Training Center I, said in an interview Monday that five slots are open for extension workers and 15 for cooperators of agriculture learning sites and representatives of state colleges and universities to participate in the training program.

“While slots are still available, interested participants may register now to this link for you to receive an official invitation,” he said, adding the deadline of registration is until May 16, 2023.

The Coconut Farmers and Industry Fund Act, approved in 2021 as part of the government’s effort to revitalize the coconut industry, aims to increase the income and productivity of the 2.5 million coconut farmers in the country.

It is also meant to promote poverty alleviation, education, and social equity; and rehabilitate and modernize the Philippine coconut industry.

Part of the program is to involve various partner agencies and make use of modern farming techniques, better varieties, and the power of science and technology to increase the average coconut production to 150 nuts per tree annually from its current 40-45 nuts per tree.

Cacao on the other hand is found to be compatible with different production systems hence, the coconut-cacao farming system is one of the focus of the training.

In Pagudpud and Adams town, for example, several farmers in the area are expanding their coconut and cacao plantations with hybrid varieties.

Backed by the Philippine Coconut Authority, the agency under the Department of Agriculture, is taking the lead to plant hybrid coconut that has the potential of yielding 150 nuts per year.

The hybrid coconut could also yield up to 300 nuts per year with the augmentation of good agricultural practices.

To date, a nursery is in place in Barangay Caparispisan where coconut farmers get their seedlings to be planted in the different villages.

According to the PCA, it takes three to four years for hybrid coconut trees to bear nuts, hence the agency is also recommending intercropping methods by planting other high-value crops such as cacao, coffee and bananas to increase the earnings of coconut farmers.

Meanwhile, an indigenous peoples (IPs) community in Adams, Ilocos Norte is also expanding their existing cacao farms to plant more varieties and make more chocolate products.

From an existing 1,350 cacao trees, IP growers in the community aim to develop at least 10 more hectares of cacao plantation as a start-up program to sustain a local chocolate factory in the area. (PNA)