THE Department of Agriculture in Negros Island Region (DA-NIR) is now in the process of identifying more areas in the region that have potentials for production of abaca, banana and pineapple.

Joyce Wendam, officer-in-charge of DA-NIR, on Monday said this is part of the mandate of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol among regional line agencies of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to increase the production of these agricultural commodities as Iran opens its market to the country.

Wendam said the creation of database for these crops will be discussed during the Regional Management Committee (RMC) meeting on January 23 to be attended by DA-NIR and other member-agencies in the region.

“Considering that Iran is a huge market, the DA Secretary would like to ensure that we have the capacity to supply its needs,” she said, adding that after identifying the areas, DA-NIR will then work on crafting appropriate project proposals to the national government.

Piñol, in his Facebook post on Sunday, said Iran's Ambassador to the Philippines Mohammad Tanhael informed him during the latter’s visit to the country Friday that they would like to buy more bananas, pineapple, and abaca from the Philippines.

Iran is currently buying its abaca supply from a third country which also buys from the Philippines, Tanhael told the agriculture chief.

The huge volume of abaca will be used for production of tea bags, security papers, and bank notes, the ambassador added.

Iran would also like to import more bananas, pineapples, and mangoes from the Philippines while offering apples and nuts in exchange, Piñol said.

“The Ambassador also said that Iran would be willing to provide the country with synthetic rubber supply in exchange for its natural rubber in view of the country's plan to establish its first Filipino-owned tire factory,” Piñol said.

To realize these business engagements, DA will conduct an agricultural trade mission to Iran in May, he added.

For Negros, Wendam said Iran’s opening of its market to the country is both an opportunity and challenge for local farmers.

She said that there is currently minimal production of these commodities, especially abaca, in the region.

For Negros Occidental alone, mapping results of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) showed that there is currently a minimal plantation of abaca in the province.

Also, OPA had earlier reported that the province is producing only at least 400 metric tons of bananas every year.

In terms of plantations, there is currently about 1,500 hectares of banana farms in the province, it added.

Wendam, however, said that with its vast lands ideal for production of abaca and various fruits paired with appropriate programs of the government, the DA remains optimistic to eventually meet both local and international demands.