Because of pest infestation, Palawan slid from ranking as the 15th highest mango-producing province in the Philippines in 1990 to the 29th in 2009. Their mango production and yield per tree also decreased by 30% and 50% respectively. These incidents underscorethe need to use new technologies and implement new policies to improve Palawan’s mango industry.
Mr. Justin McKinley from the Social Sciences Division of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) shared this assessment during SEARCA’s Agriculture and Development Seminar held on 11 October 2011.
The decline in Palawan’s mango production can be linked to the mango quarantine that was implemented when the pest Sternochetus frigidus, more commonly known as mango pulp weevil (MPW), was detected in the province. MPWs are pests that feed on mango fruit flesh. This makes them difficult to detect since the damages they cause to mangoes cannot be seen from the outside. It was believed that they originated from Malaysia, and were first seen in the southern part of the Philippines.
Its detection in Palawan in 1987 caused farmers’ profit to decline. McKinley’s study reveals that from 1990 to 2009, Palawan’s farmers had lost an estimated 120.82 million USD. Consequently, the retail economy of Palawan also suffered. An estimated 262 million USD was lost in the same period.
To address these problems, adoption of new technologies such as the use of x-ray technology can help ensure that the produce is safe for export. This technology is a non-destructive method of detecting MPW infestation in harvested mangoes.
In terms of policy, McKinley suggests lifting the mango quarantine in Palawan under the condition that strict supervision will be exercised to prevent the spread of MPWs to other countries or provinces during exportation.
Building private enterprises for processing mangoes, according to Mr. McKinley, can also help improve the industry. These enterprises would enable the production of value-added products such as mango juice, dried mangoes, mango pulp, and mango puree. This would also provide farmers an alternative market for mangoes and new job opportunities for Palawan residents.
“Palawan has room for improvement,” McKinley said. Toward the end of his talk, he encouraged policy makers and biotechnologists to take necessary actions to restore Palawan’s mango industry. According to him, this would benefit not only Palawan, but the mango industry in the whole country as well.
His presentation is part of a study titled “An Economic Assessment of the Impact of Mango Pulp Weevil on the Agricultural Sector of Palawan, Philippines” covering 20 years of data about Palawan’s mango industry. His co-researchers include Valerien O. Pede and Adam H. Sparks from IRRI, and Bart Duff from the Palawan-based NGO Poor No More. (Faith Ocampo)