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Tobacco dust seen to boost local aquaculture industry

March 26, 2010

By Teddy Molina (The Philippine Star) Updated March 26, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Thanks to tobacco dust, inland fish products from the Philippines may regain access to foreign markets.

Fish exports particularly milkfish and tilapia which used to be among the country’s dollar earners had been banned in the US and Europe after they were found to contain chemical pesticide residues due to the extensive use of chemical pesticides.

Officials of the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) which developed and commercialized tobacco dust are upbeat claiming the local aquaculture industry would bounce back to life with the use of tobacco dust.

Field trials conducted by the NTA in Bulacan and Bataan fishponds reportedly showed that tobacco dust, an organic fertilizer cum molluscicide, is a  safe alternative to chemical pesticides.

The tobacco agency,  in line with FIELDS, a special program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to enhance agricultural productivity, has implemented projects including the development of other industrial products derived from tobacco, some of which have been commercialized under the administration of President Arroyo..

FIELDS which stands for Fertilizer, Irrigation, Extension, Loans, Driers and Seeds, was launched a few years ago by President Arroyo and implemented by then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

Fertilizer

NTA Administrator Carlitos Encarnacion reported the agency’s production of an organic fertilizer which is now commercialized as Tobacco Dust Plus. It promotes the growth of ‘lablab’ (algae) that is used at the same time as “molluscicide” to eliminate snails and other pests in fishponds.

The environment-friendly product is being patronized by fishpond owners to replace chemical pesticides and holds great promise in making Philippine fish products safe and acceptable in foreign markets where they had been banned earlier for containing chemical pesticide residues.

A tobacco dust processing plant was established by NTA in Sto. Tomas, La Union in July last year and since then has been churning out dust materials from poor-grade tobacco leaves which upon application of a special technology yields a standard 1.3-percent nicotine content.

With an annual dust requirement of 400-million kilos by fishponds nationwide including 100-million kilos in Region III alone, market demand is encouraging, to the economic benefit of the farmers who mainly supply the raw material for the La Union plant.

Under NTA’s Integrated Farming and Other Income Generating Activities Project (IFOIGAP), fertilizer assistance was extended to an average of 15,738 tobacco farmer-cooperators tilling 10,230 hectares for rice and tobacco yearly .

For rice and high value crops, a yearly average of 1,247 farmer-cooperators using an average of 1,167 ha. were similarly assisted.

Irrigation

For irrigation, the tobacco agency provided 150 pump and engine sets to tobacco farmers’ associations apart from securing the National Irrigation Administration’s nod for the tapping of its “Balikatan sa Patubig” by tobacco farmers who are also engaged in rice farming.

Extension

Extension services provided by the tobacco agency involved education and technology training coupled by on-farm technical supervision.

An average of 48,484 tobacco farmers utilizing an average farm area of 29,671 ha. were assisted yearly for the past nine years.  Of the figure, 32.46% were under the agency’s Tobacco Contract Growing System.

For the nine-year period covered by the report, an average of 1,893 farmers growing rice after tobacco on 1,517 ha. were similarly assisted yearly.

Their total palay harvest on the average reached 6,643,150 kilos a year valued at P99,494,312 .

Their production boosted the farmers’ income and helped ensure food security.

Six tobacco-based cooperatives with 156 members harnessed during the agency’s stewardship of the Multiline Food Processing Plant in Santa, Ilocos Sur were also assisted by NTA . In turn, they earned additional income for raising hogs and poultry.

Trainings on quality tobacco production were extended yearly to an average of 350 tobacco farmer-leaders and extension workers while the Cooperative Development Authority was tapped to conduct leadership training activities to farmer cooperatives officers.

Loans

An average of P157 million has been extended yearly in production assistance  to farmers under the Tobacco Contract Growing Scheme (TCGS) or a total of P1.4 billion during the period. NTA tapped various funding sources including the buyer-firms, the DA’s Agricultural Credit and Productivity Corp., other government financial agencies, farmers’ cooperatives and local government units.

A P100-million loan assistance package for the rehabilitation or construction of curing barns has been approved for implementation by Yap which will serve the farmers in good stead as they continue producing tobacco.

The barn will be highly beneficial for its novelty. As a multipurpose grain drier cum tobacco curing barn, it is also applicable for rice, corn, beans, onions, vegetables, and garlic.

Apart from this, NTA has been defraying P39.5 million yearly for barn repair and  fuel assistance costs benefitting 3,500 farmers.

The novel drier officially known as Grain Drier with Curing Barns will be available in two-months’ time, Encarnacion said.

Seeds

The NTA along with the tobacco buying sector and the Bureau of Plant Industry produce an average of 750 kilos of market-preferred seed varieties annually to replace the old and degenerated ones for distribution to the farmers. 48,000 farmers are served yearly with the new seeds covering more than half of the target tobacco hectarage for the year. The agency likewise has seed provision or a buffer stock to be made available when typhoons destroy standing plants.

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=561229&publicationSubCategoryId=66

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