ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 28 Sept) – To maintain its position being the major producer of rubber in the country, the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office here is targeting to develop an additional 20,000-hectare rubber plantation in Zamboanga Peninsula until 2010.
According to senior agriculturist Marcial Fantone, the expansion project will augment the region's existing 35,000 hectares, which is currently the biggest area in the country planted with rubber. He said the expansion project will be implemented "phase by phase."
"We are developing at the rate of 5,000 hectares of new lands per year for rubber plantation," he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Mr. Fantone said 60% of the expansion area will be in Zamboanga del Norte province and the rest will be in the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan.
To support the project, the DA through its research-arm is also set to establish more than 10 budwood gardens and nurseries in the emerging rubber production municipalities in Zamboanga Peninsula.
The DA regional office is presently maintaining 12 budwood gardens and nurseries which are located in different key rubber production areas in the region, Mr. Fantone said.
He said Budwood garden is where local farmers can avail the budded rubber planting materials. "Budwood garden served as the laboratory where the rubber plants are being budded, clone, and cultured."
"An alternative means of providing low cost and available clonal planting materials is the establishment of budwood gardens and rootstock nurseries at the farmer level operated by farmer groups in each identified municipalities," he said, adding that the establishment of budwood gardens and rootstock nurseries is a self-assistance program for the preparation of planting materials for the local farmers.
He said the expansion project will also aim to stimulate farmers to plant clonal planting material and to provide low cost planting materials which are available at the municipality level.
Mr. Fantone said the DA regional office is now conducting several trainings to local farmers to increase their capability to produce their own clonal planting materials.
He said this program needs very intensive guidance from local agricultural extensionists in all steps, from nursery preparation to grafting and transplanting to the field.
"We really have to train our local farmers with new techniques to maintain the supply of rubber seedlings, and to promote the propagation of the multibillion-peso rubber industry in this region," he emphasized.
He said the project is inline with the government's Rubber Industry Roadmap and to support the National Rubber Development Program that was launched in Kidapawan City early this month.
At present, the total area planted to rubber in the country is pegged at 81,925 hectares with Zamboanga Sibugay having the largest area with 19,576 hectares, followed by North Cotabato and Basilan.
He said the region has at least 32, 000 vacant lands that are very much suitable for rubber plantations.According to him, Zamboanga Peninsula has been the major rubber producer in the country, which contributes at least 48 percent of the total rubber productions in the country.
In 2003, rubber was the top export earner for Mindanao, registering sales of US$44.2 million from production volume of 32.8 million kilograms.Last year, Zamboanga Peninsula was able to produced 146,000 metric tons of raw dried rubber, slightly increased of 3% compared to the previous year with 143,000 mt.
Currently, farm-gate price of raw rubber ranges from P32 to P42 per kilo with 50 to 52% dry rubber content.
On the other hand, the semi-processed rubber are being sold at a price running between P92 to P96 per kilo, and expected to continue to increase up to 2015, due to huge demand both locally and abroad, Mr. Fantone said. (Mindanao Examiner)