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Monday, March 02, 2009

Expert urges planting of smaller but more productive mango trees

DAVAO CITY -- Dr. Calixto M. Protacio, a leading plant breeder, has urged government to lead in the massive cultivation of smaller but more productive mango trees to raise yields and improve the country’s share in the expanding export market.

Dr. Protacio made the proposal when he delivered the David H. Murdock/Dole Asia professorial chair lecture on February 25 in a forum organized by the Initiative for Farm Advocacy and Resource Management (IFARM) and Croplife Philippines at the campus of University of the Philippines-Mindanao (UP-Min) here.

He stressed that reforming the mango industry is needed now to maintain the country’s position as the world’s second biggest mango exporter and possibly eat into the lead of Mexico.

Dr. Protacio explained that big mango trees are harder to manage and large plantations require more workers during harvest time.

Scientific advances also make it possible for more small fruit-bearing trees to occupy each hectare of land, he added, and the increase in yield will naturally skyrocket, he argued.

No less than 90 percent of the country’s mango exports are in the form of fresh fruits. The Philippines enjoys a 65 percent market share in Hong Kong and controls 24 percent of the Japan market, he added. The mango expert said South Korea is starting to become a major market like the United States.

A survey conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) in 2007 showed that a total of 184,174 hectares of land are devoted to mango production. There are a total of 8,115,899 fruit-bearing mango trees all over the country.

Output-wise, the Philippines harvests an average of 913,000 metric tons of the fruit,
which makes it the eighth biggest player in the global market.

Only six percent of the total output is exported, Dr. Protacio revealed, and the country must increase its share of the export market by raising production and achieve inclusion in the list of countries that conform with the standards of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP), which is required if the Philippines wants to penetrate the big European Union (EU) market.

He noted the mango production system in the country is largely “parochial and is thus limited in range and scope.”

Dr. Protacio said the Philippines can cash in on smaller mango trees inasmuch as Thailand stopped its mango production from smaller mango trees two decades ago.

The expert stressed that big trees have canopy diameters of up to 20 meters and grow up to a height of buildings four storeys high.

Following current practice of planting a mango tree in a 20m by 20m square, only a total of 25 trees can be accommodated in one hectare, with the yield ranging from 400 kilos to 1,000 kilos per hectare.

Dr. Protacio also doubted the range of average mango yield from six to 10 tons per hectare, saying “it is probably an overestimate.”
He stressed that workers risk injury when climbing trees to harvest the fruit and spray the leaves with pesticides and nematicides. (iFARM)

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