Ligao City bags national award for agriculture, leads Albay for producing toxin-free corn

Ligao City was among the 25 towns and cities which were given the Outstanding LGU award at the 10th Philippine National Corn Congress for its notable efforts in for its notable efforts in producing toxin-free corn and exceptional performance in implementing corn-related programs.

Ligao City in Albay was recognized for producing Aflatoxin-free corn.
Ligao City in Albay was recognized for producing Aflatoxin-free corn.
Photo courtesy of Ligao City Agriculture Office
The award was given at Cagayan de Oro on 20 November 2014.

The best corn in Albay

In 2012, the City Agriculture Office of Ligao submitted samples of corn harvested in Bonga and Tuburan to test for presence of Aflatoxin, a poisonous substance that causes liver cancer to humans. Results showed that corn samples contained 0.0 to 0.09 ppb* of Aflatoxin indicating that no poisonous substance were found. Among the municipalities and cities in Albay, Ligao is the only city that produces Aflatoxin-free corn.

Ligao City Outstanding LGU
Ligao City Mayor Patricia Gonzalez-Alsua (fourth from left) received the award for Ligao as an Outstanding LGU during the 10th Philippine National Corn Congress in Cagayan de Oro on 20 November 2014. Photo via DA
The secret to this success lies in the proper management of crops and careful handling during postharvest operations, marketing, and storage. Agricultural Technologist Michele Odoño of the City Agriculture Office (CAO) explained that Aflatoxin is like a dormant microorganism in crops that easily grows under favorable environment. The best way to keep these toxins from getting “activated” is through proper handling of crops and environment.

Corn production in Ligao is guided by the 2007 Philippine National Standard (PNS) Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Aflatoxin Contamination in Corn released by the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Services. It details good farm practices during harvest, pre-harvest, and post harvest period. One of the important post harvest practices according to Agricultural Technologist Rebecca Manlangit is storing crops with proper ventilation to maintain enough supply of air and moisture in storage facilities and equipment.

Reaping benefits

One of primary benefits of maintaining toxin-free crops is the stable and/or increased production. Over the last three years, corn production has increased despite the drastic effects of climate change. In 2011, a total of 2,924.385 metric tons of corn was produced. Production increased to 5,389.35 metric tons in 2012 and 6,496.373 metric tons in 2013. The harvested corns are marketed in Ligao. However, merchants from other towns like Batangas visit Ligao to buy crops from local farmers.

Corn production in Ligao is established in two cropping season each year, during dry season (January-June) and wet season (July-December). The production is concentrated in a cluster of barangays categorized into upper and lower cluster. Barangays Paulog, Tuburan, Bonga, Pinamaniquian, Pandan, Tastas and small areas from nearby barangays constitute the lower cluster. The upper cluster consists of Busac, Malama, Allang, Tula-Tula, and Palapas with some areas from neighboring barangays. In 2013, a total of 2,810 hectares of land were planted with corn in the upper and lower cluster.

Prioritizing farmers' needs

The LGU is allocating funds for the procurement of agricultural machineries and equipment to facilitate farming operations in Ligao. In 2011 to 2013, more than 160 farmers and three farmers’ organizations benefited from the LGU-owned tractor. During the same period, a total of 6,265 bags of corn were dried and shelled using the Village-type Corn Cob Dryer in Barangay Bonga. All areas where crop production is a major activity are also equipped with solar dryers.

The LGU also released a total amount of P 2,415,000 as loan assistance to farmers in 2011 to 2013 through the LPG-SEED Planting Assistance Loan Program.

Crop production has been a top priority in Ligao since the time of Congressman Fernando V. Gonzalez as Mayor of Ligao. The legacy of good governance remained as former City Mayor Linda P. Gonzalez and current City Mayor Patricia Gonzalez-Alsua continued the development and implementation of agricultural programs.

These notable efforts are driven by the strong partnership of the local government, agricultural agencies, farmers, and individuals who continuously participate in the improvement and development of agricultural programs. Aside from the local agriculture office, the Philippine Rice Research Institute Bicol station based in Ligao is another institution that brings opportunities for local farmers to be the prime movers of success in the agricultural industry. —by Lala Peñafiel

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