Ilocos Norte set to become 's 'dragon fruit capital'

- Rudy A. Fernandez -

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines — Ilocos Norte is aiming to become the “dragon fruit capital” of the Philippines.

With its climate and soil suitable to the production of this cactus food crop, the province, through its provincial and local government, have crafted a program to make Ilocos Norte “saniata country”.

Dragon fruit is locally called saniata, which was introduced in the province not long ago.

A vine-like species of cactus that thrives in hot climate with a lot of rainfull, dragon fruit is native to Central and South America. The French introduced it in Vietnam, where it was first cultivated in Asia. It is now planted in Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Southeast China, and the Philippines.

“Dragon fruit is now considered one of the favorite fruits of many Ilocanos because of its known therapeutic properties,” said the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU).

It further reported: “Many are already involved in the production of dragon fruit in Ilocos Norte where the climatic condition is very much adaptable.”

MMSU is a six-campus university in Ilocos Norte whose seat of administrative is the main campus in Batac City. It is now one of the government and private entities being harnessed to expand dragon fruit production in this province that constitute the northwestern most flank of Luzon.

Others involved are the Provincial Agriculture Office (FAO), Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Unit I (DA-RFU I), and the private sector.

No less than Gov. Imee Romualdez-Marcos is spearheading the program, Dr. Miriam Pascua, MMSU president, told this writer in a recent interview here.

The Ilocos Norter dragon fruit production program is being coordinated by the MMSU-based Ilocos Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILARRDEC), one of the 14 regional R&D consortia and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD).

Dr. Pascua told The STAR that Gov. Marcos recently convened a dialogue with officials of the agencies involved in the project.

Among those present in the meeting were Provincial Agriculturist Norma Lagmay, Lolita Raposas, also of PAO, Leonardo Pascua, project leader and regional coordinator of the ILARRDEC Techno Gabay program, and Edita Aguinaldo-Dacuycuy, magsasaka-siyentista of PCARRD and owner of REFMAD Farm in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

During the dialogue, Gov. Marcos commissioned a team to work out for the expansion of areas planted to dragon fruit to 100 hectares more.

Initially, MMSU reported, 50 idle and underutilized hectares in the towns of Burgos, Pasquin, Paoay, and Currimao will be planted.

“Aside from utilizing these lands, the project could also help in poverty alleviation of inhabitants in the identified areas,” it added.

To date, Pascua also reported, 25 hectares have been planted to dragon fruit cactus by 127 growers who belong to the Saniata Growers Association.

It is profitable to venture into dragon fruit production, MMSU said.

In a year, a grower can earn a net income of about P200,000.

In support of the project, a package of technology (POT) has been produced in printed and video formats to guide growers in the production of dragon fruits.

Demonstration plots in farmers’ field, elementary schools, and barangay organization have also been established. Training programs, cross visits, monitoring, and field consultations, school-on-the-air programs, product development, marketing, and exhibits have been conducted.

Dacuycuy said a number of products can be made out of dragon fruits, among them cupcake from dragon fruits flesh and rind; macaroni from rind; lumpiang shanghai, empanadita, and siomai from its dried flowers; ice cream and jam from flesh and rind; soap from its stem; and wine from its flesh.

Summing up, greening the grey and dry areas in Ilocos Norte, aside from providing a lucrative means of livelihood to the people.

“This can mitigate climate change and an opportunity for the underutilized and idle areas to be converted into productive lands,” she also stressed.

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