LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - The municipal government of La Trinidad, Benguet is planning to import "clean" and "virus-free" strawberry seedlings that would help farmers improve their production.
"We have a problem now on the strawberry seedlings' quality. That is why we are negotiating for the importation of new planting materials," Mayor Romeo Salda said in an interview on Tuesday.
He said that with the help of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Cordillera and a private importer, they are trying to look for virus-free seedlings of the "shoga" and "sweet charlie" varieties, which have been proven to be of good quality in terms of taste and sweetness.
A budget of PHP500,000 has been allotted by the local government for that purpose. The mayor is optimistic that they would be able to get the new seedlings in a few months, have them propagated, and ready for distribution to farmers in the last quarter of the year, in time for the cold months.
Salda said they will import what the allotted amount could buy and will ask the Benguet State University (BSU) to propagate the same through tissue culture.
"We will multiply what we can buy so that there will be more farmers who will benefit," the official said.
The new planting materials will allow farmers to harvest more and bigger strawberries.
La Trinidad, the capital of Benguet, is known as the top producer of strawberries which are mostly marketed in Baguio City and at the strawberry farms within the swamp area.
This town's strawberry produce has given it the Guinness record for the biggest strawberry shortcake in 2004. The cake weighed 9,622.24 kilograms and was served to more than 10,000 persons during the Strawberry Festival that year.
The town has also started propagating other varieties like the festival, fiesta, and the king berry varieties which are perfect to be transported even to southern Philippines, without the berries deteriorating in quality compared to the shoga and sweet charlie, which are known for their sweet, soft and red flesh.
Salda said that there are also farmers who have started propagating the "snow white" and the "milky way" varieties from China which that produce white strawberries.
"They are also sweet. I was given a kilo of the varieties and they are also good although it looks different because we have been used to the red-skinned berries," he said in Ilocano.
Some have skin that is a combination of white and red, which could have been a product of cross-pollination between the red and the white varieties.
The mayor said that their strawberry continues to be a huge draw for tourists wanting to experience strawberry-picking activities.
"We are happy because tourism adds to the income not just of the farmers and the traders but the domino effect that it creates when the tourists buy souvenirs and, vegetables and eat in restaurants," Salda said.
He said that they saw the influx of tourists in November, which was also the start of the strawberry-fruiting season, until the present.
"Some of the tourists interviewed said their visit to Baguio is not complete without the strawberry picking," Salda said. (PNA)