MANILA, Nov. 29 — The Philippines, one of the largest agricultural producers in Southeast Asia, has much potential in agri-tourism, Japanese “meisters” or experts have noted.
As they move towards more healthy eating options, the Japanese continue to look for high quality agricultural producers, an opportunity which the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) considers as having high potential in enticing a steadily growing niche market.
DOT Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano said, “The increasing popularity of the healthy lifestyle in Japan will definitely attract the specialized market segment of vegetable and fruit meisters to the Philippines.”
The slogan “you are what you eat” is something that a rising number of Japanese women are now adhering to. The focus is now more on fruits and vegetables, and recently Japanese meisters have taken notice of the country’s high quality organic produce.
With the advocacy of further promoting agri-tourism and organic farming in the country, DOT welcomed recently representatives from the Vegetable and Fruit Meister Association of Japan to choice farms, and let them experience sustainable organic farming in the country.
The Vegetable and Fruit Meister Association will publish their stories on Philippine organic agriculture in their magazine entitled “Yasai Tsushin,” to promote not only the tropical fruits and vegetables but also the country’s agri-tourism destinations, attractions, and festivities.
Durano added, “Agriculture has been the traditional backbone of the economy, and there is synergy with tourism. The Philippines can also be known for agri-tourism, since here in our country is a whole selection of quality organic products.”
Xavier University College of Agriculture and the Sustainable Agriculture Center in Cagayan de Oro City; the Del Monte Farms in Bukidnon; and Mariculture in Misamis Oriental, are among the featured institutions where local experts demonstrated the procedures in growing vegetables and fruits, as well as various ways of preparing vegetable dishes and recipes.
Dr. Floro Dalapag of the College of Agriculture in Xavier University presented the different preparations of rice cookies, papaya preserves and corn coffee to the Japanese fruit and vegetable meisters.
Montegelo Agri-tourism Resort Complex, owned by plant pathologist Dr. Faustino Obrero, featured their own specialty – cactus soup, an exotic soup rich in vitamins and minerals.
Obrero’s establishment is famous for its flexible facilities for students, families, and long-stay tourists.
Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions Eduardo Jarque Jr. said, “The Philippines has a wealth of tropical produce that would definitely entice fruit and vegetable meisters. These products would enhance their activities and help promote healthy living.”
Jarque also noted, “These trips cater to a niche market of travelers who prefer to take more time in immersing themselves in the culture of a specific town, or a farming community. The tourism department is bent in promoting these more.”
The Vegetable and Fruit Meister Association aims to foster food culture and advocate healthy eating habits by training specialists, and to inspire their fellow Japanese to practice and adhere to using only organic agricultural produce.
Director Benito Bengzon, head of DOT Team Japan, said, they also went to the rich organic farms of Camiguin Island, famous for its Lanzones Festival.
The region, known for its abundant supplies of raw materials used as organic fertilizers and fungicides, also is rich in a diverse flora and fauna.
Bengzon and the group also toured the Gardens of the Malasag Eco-village, where the colorful culture of the various tribes in Northern Mindanao can be experienced first-hand.
Sometimes referred to as a “living museum,” immersion in their community is a truly unique and fulfilling encounter; indigenous weaving, singing, and dancing and all their practices are all intact – a quality which has kept them united throughout the years.
According to Bengzon, “While the country is still in its initial stages in making full blast as with organic farming, there are already 35,000 organic farms on 14,140 hectares of land with a total share of 0.12 percent of total agricultural lands.”
It was also reported by the FAS/US Department of Agriculture in 2000 that organic agricultural production is limited though steadily growing, between 10 to 20 percent annually.
In support of the initiative to boost organic farming in the country, Executive Order No. 481, entitled “Promotion and Development of Organic Agriculture in the Philippines” was issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005. (PNA)