By ACE ALEGRE
Tabuk City, Kalinga – Inroads of corn production in Kalinga is threatening not only the famed coffee plantations of the highland province but its forest lands, too.
Corn production may have given the Kalinga farmers better income but its effects on the pioneering coffee processing industry here and on forest lands are alarming the city officials.
Tabuk City Administrator Laurence Bayongan singled out Magnao village here which used to be one of the leading coffee producers in the city. It has since lost that distinction due to corn production.
“By converting the coffee plantations, we are not only killing the coffee industry but we are aggravating climate change and inviting environmental disasters,” Bayongan warned as he urged farmers in the city to plant new coffee trees.
Grace Baluyan, director of the Department of Trade and Industry in Kalinga, said that the conversion of coffee plantations to cash crops is clouding the prospects of coffee processing industry in the province.
Baluyan said that there are seven established coffee processors in the province, one of which is already exporting its products.
“The future is not very bright for the coffee processing industry but it’s a challenge we must address. At the moment, the volume of production in the province could still supply the needs of coffee processors but what we are anticipating is an increase in volume of orders,” Baluyan said.
The escalation of environmental degradation is a grave concern as areas in which corn could be grown are now being targeted for clearing.
Slash-and-burn farming (kaingin) and the burning of mountainsides escalated three years ago when weedicides were introduced in Magnao village. It simplified and shortened farm preparation, said a local.
From then on, corn has dislodged rice as the prime agricultural product of the village as it could be planted twice a year unlike upland rice which could only be planted once a year.
Magnao resident Peter Gonayon said that the economic returns of corn is much better than that of rice and coffee, but it led to the clearing of even mountaintops which used to be spared from the kaingin practice in the village composed of 99-percent kaingineros.
The phenomenon of coffelands and forestlands turning into cornlands is also true for other villages especially in Cudal and Calaccad, the main corn producers of the city.
Tabuk City Mayor Ferdinand Tubban, however, is determined to reverse the situation even as he reminds the upland farmers that kaingin is not the only means of livelihood. The people of Magnao village use to live off their orchards and coffeeland.
Hoping to reverse the onslaught of corn production and accompanying environmental degradation, Tubban is set to implement an integrated coffee development project in Magnao this 2012 for livelihood and also to repair the damaged ecology.
The project which calls for planting, growing and maintaining coffee plants, shall have an initial funding of P2M, some of which will go to the employment of people who will guard and maintain the plantations.