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July 22,2009

Special Report

200,000 Robusta Coffee Seedlings Are Distributed To Abaca Farmers

By Quirico M. Gorpido, Jr.

Maasin City, Southern Leyte,Philippines-Two hundred thousand (200,000) Robusta

coffee seedlings are distributed to abaca farmers in Maasin whose abaca
plantations were wiped out by the bunchy top virus in recent years. The
distribution has started in time for the planting season last July 2008 up to the
end of September of the current year.
This was disclosed by a staff of Congressman Roger Mercado’s District Office
who does not want to be
named. He said the aforementioned coffee seedlings were planted at Mercado’s
nursery in brgy. Bugo where newly-planted trees of different species can be
Mercado’s staff explained that the number of seedlings distributed to the
abaca farmers have depended on the sizes of their lots. “For one hectare land an
estimated 1,666 seedlings are to be given in a 2X3 distant planting”, he said.
“For a one half hectare, half of the numbers being mentioned. And for a one fourth
hectare lot, ¼ part of the total number of coffee seedlings of one hectare.”
He revealed Mercado also gave 25 kilos of Robusta coffee seeds to Bontoc and
35 kilos to Hinunangan.He informed the LGUs have planted the coffee seeds in their
own nurseries for distribution upon reaching plantable stage. These coffee
seedlings are also for distribution to abaca farmers in the neighboring towns who
are also interested to plant coffee trees.
If there are problems arising from the growth of the Robusta coffee
plantations in the province, he said,
Davao-Nestle Philippines’ technicians would come to provide technical assistance
to the concerned farmers.
He claimed that Nestle Philippines who owns the Robusta coffee seedlings will
be the one to buy the whole harvest of robusta coffee seeds every harvest season.
This variety of coffee can bear fruits two times a year, he said.
Moreover, if the coffee plantation in various areas can regularly sustain a
harvest of 50,000 tons of coffee
seeds per year, he said, Nestle Philippines will establish a coffee processing
plant in Southern Leyte.
He claimed that the target is not hard to achieve. “If in my lowest estimate,
every tree will yield just three kilos every harvesting season”, he said, “then
multiply that by 200,000 coffee trees, it can have a total of 600,000 kilos. Since
one ton is equal to 1,000 kilos, the 50,000 tons coffee harvest per year is
therefore reachable and achievable”.

Bunchy Top Background

The airborne virus has originated from 2 lakatan suckers from General Santos
City brought to Mahaplag, Northern Leyte for supposed propagation of the
suckers.However,it failed to multiply because it was discovered by a plant disease
expert to have infected with a bunchy top virus. This virus has later attacked
sometime in 1999.the abaca plantations in Mahaplag town which is next to Sogod,
Southern Leyte.
In less than 2 months time the plague has reached Sogod, which is about 25
kilometers away from Mahaplag. also attacking it abaca plantations. The dreadful
disease had spread quickly to other municipalities of
Southern Leyte like in Bontoc, Malitbog, P.Burgos, and Maasin. But the disease is
less in St.Bernard and Hinunangan.
From that year up to the year 2007, the spread of the disease has become
uncontrollable. The chemical sprays worth millions of pesos for the prevention of
the disease seemed to have a little effect. The farmer’s lack of necessary
knowledge in the prevention and eradication of the plague and their “usik
attitude” has greatly contributed to the worsening of the damage, resulting to the
wiping out of their abaca plantations.
The retrieval of some abaca fibers from the diseased plants for some cash
using a scythe or a bolo was discovered to be contributory to the spread of the
bunchy top virus. Using the same instrument to cut healthy abaca plants in other
plantations has spread more the disease whose degree of transmission was already
beyond control.

Coffee-producing Province
During the previous years from 1970 up to the 1980s, our source said,
Southern Leyte is a coffee-producing province.However, when its thousands of
hectares of abaca plantations in different municipalities have reached a plentiful
harvest every year and was in great demand in the domestic and international
market, the abaca farmers, who should be thankful for additional blessing of good
coffee yields, ignorantly cut instead the matured fruit-bearing coffee trees
planted inside the abaca plantations.
“The farmers’ bad habit of cutting those fruit-bearing coffee plants for
additional income”, said a concerned agriculturist here,” seemed to have boomerang
to them when their abaca plantations were attacked by the bunchy top virus and
wiped out. A kind of karmic debt that has to be paid.”
Nonetheless, a veteran farmer in one of the hinterland barangays here
explained that the main reason why they cut the coffee plants grown inside the
abaca farms was because the former have caused an adverse effect to the normal and
healthy growth of abaca (guiawngan in Cebuano)
Furthermore, during the distribution of the coffee seedlings, our source also
said, there were few old abaca farmers who did not want their share of the
plantlets to be planted on their vacant lots. He said they still believed that
they can get abaca suckers which they would prefer to be planted on their lots.
“But I don’t think they can get healthy suckers at this time because the virus
that attacked the huge hectarages of the abaca plantations in the province were
the same virus that is now inflicting bananas in some Maasin barangays”,said our
source.(Quirico M. Gorpido, Jr.)